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A&S scientists to help create global database for neuroscience research
College of Arts and Sciences researchers are teaming with the Miller School of Medicine to create a database for neurological research that could speed the development of new drugs to regenerate and protect nerves after spinal cord injury. The groundbreaking tool, tentatively called RegenBase and funded with a $2.5 million National Institutes of Health grant, will enable researchers to rapidly cull through thousands of studies on neurological repair while linking with other relevant research.
From left, Stephan Schürer, Vance Lemmon, Ubbo Visser, and John L. Bixby.
“Right now there is no simple way, short of spending years reading papers, to find genes that have been linked to nerve regeneration, which is the goal of spinal cord and nervous system research,” said the grant’s principal investigator, Vance Lemmon, professor of neurological surgery, the Walter G. Ross Distinguished Chair in Developmental Neuroscience, and member of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis research faculty. “There are just too many studies for investigators to keep up with, so we need ways to allow them to search the literature much more efficiently and find information relevant to spinal cord injury. That’s what we propose to do.”
Awarded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the four-year grant solidifies UM’s growing reputation as the go-to institution for the development of chemoinformatics tools and ontologies that allow massive and diverse data sets to be integrated, queried, interpreted, and analyzed across multiple disciplines. In addition to Lemmon, the grant’s co-principal investigators are John L. Bixby, professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology and neurological surgery and fellow Miami Project member; Stephan Schürer, research assistant professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology; and Ubbo Visser, associate professor of computer science.
The UM team plans to link RegenBase with the BioAssay Ontology, another tool created by Lemmon, Schürer, Visser, and Mitsunori Ogihara, Associate Dean for Digital Library Innovation, that enables chemists and biologists to rapidly search small-molecule compounds, as well as other biomedical domain-level ontologies. RegenBase ultimately will allow scientists anywhere in the world to link data and results from studies on gene expression in nervous system injury and disease to data and knowledge from other domains that emphasize molecular targets and small molecules that perturb their function, ultimately speeding the development of novel therapeutics.
Underscoring UM’s growing prominence in chemoinformatics, the BioAssay Ontology project, which is ongoing, was recently leveraged into a new NIH-funded collaboration with scientists at Harvard, The Broad Institute, Columbia, Yale, and the University of Arizona to incorporate more molecular and biochemical data from the Library of Integrated Network-based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) program.
This report is adapted from eVeritas.
July 17, 2012