Ohio Supercomputer Center, Ralph Regula School to power Choose Ohio First bioinformatics program

DNA imageConsortium garners $4.475 million in state funding, aims to put Ohio in Top 5

Columbus, Ohio – March 18, 2008 – A proposal led by Ohio University and powered by the resources of the Ohio Supercomputer Center and the Ralph Regula School of Computational Science is aimed at positioning the state as a national leader in the emerging field of bioinformatics.

Among seven projects to earn funding in the first round of the new Choose Ohio First scholarship program, the Ohio Consortium for Bioinformatics will receive $4.475 million from the Ohio Board of Regents for student scholarships. The seven successful proposals announced today – of 28 submitted – will receive more than $22.7 million for student scholarships in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical (STEM) fields.

The Ohio Supercomputer Center will partner with the Ralph Regula School of Computational Science, Ohio University, 11 other colleges and universities, and industry leaders to attract and graduate an estimated 345 students in bioinformatics over a five-year period. Partners in the consortium will contribute more than $4.6 million to develop programs, expand offerings and cover other related costs.

Bioinformatics merges biology, computer science and information technology into a single discipline that relies on high performance computing to analyze large amounts of data. It can assist in efforts as diverse as finding cures for diseases, making advances in agriculture and enhancing industrial opportunities. The need for bioinformatics -- one of the fastest-growing areas in science -- has been driven by the vast amount of data that now can be generated by such technologies as DNA sequencing.

“Bioinformatics is a field that holds extraordinary promise in Ohio for producing new, high-paying jobs and improving quality-of-life,” said Stan Ahalt, OSC executive director. “The Ohio Consortium for Bioinformatics project is an excellent fit for the Ohio Supercomputer Center, which has been focusing its new and existing resources on areas found to hold the most potential for bolstering Ohio’s economy, which include the bio-sciences and data exploitation.”

OSC will support the consortium by providing portals for consortium researchers to access bioinformatics software, developing cyberinfrastructure for instrumentation and analytics and supplying other high performance computing resources. The consortium will also take advantage of the resources and organization of the Ralph Regula School of Computational Science, which will facilitate the preparation and delivery of a shared bioinformatics curriculum and the inter-institutional agreements for the academic program.

Ohio University’s Lonnie Welch, Stuckey Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, has been working for several years to bring bioinformatics experts across the state together. He and Ohio University alumnus Terry Lewis of the Ohio Supercomputer Center organized the first Ohio Collaborative Bioinformatics Conference, held on the Athens campus in 2006.

With the funding announced today, Welch envisions the state taking a leadership role in a field that has the potential to help society in endless ways and create thousands of jobs across Ohio.

“I’ve seen the expertise we have around the state of Ohio in this field,” Welch said. “By pulling together that expertise, we can form a very strong entity that covers all the areas of bioinformatics. Each of us complements what the other is doing. That’s going to be unique in the nation.”

The proposals submitted for Choose Ohio First funding consideration were reviewed by a 7-member panel of nationally visible STEM educational experts appointed by Board of Regents Chancellor Eric D. Fingerhut.

“Round One award recipients submitted proposals that were all creative in establishing forward-looking educational initiatives that will advance STEM education in Ohio, and some may well serve as national models,” said Fingerhut. “The leadership of Governor Strickland and the General Assembly has created a tremendous opportunity for Ohio students, our colleges, universities and their partners, as well as the overall Ohio economy.”

The $50 million Choose Ohio First scholarship program is a component of the Ohio Innovation Partnership created by the Ohio General Assembly to help make Ohio a global leader in the new economy. The funding is aimed at attracting and graduating more than 2,000 students in STEM fields over the next five years. The state announced that a second round of the Choose Ohio First competition to award the remaining $27.3 million is now under way.

Celebrating 20 years of service, the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) is a catalytic partner of Ohio universities and industries that provides a reliable high performance computing and high performance networking infrastructure for a diverse statewide/regional community including education, academic research, industry, and state government. Funded by the Ohio Board of Regents, OSC promotes and stimulates computational research and education in order to act as a key enabler for the state's aspirations in advanced technology, information systems, and advanced industries. For additional information, visit http://www.osc.edu.

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