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New projects helping lay the foundations for biology breakthroughs

16 November 2012

Ten new projects, announced today by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will help researchers develop and maintain the infrastructure and resources that are vital for modern bioscience. The projects represent a £5.5M investment by BBSRC to ensure that the bioscience community is equipped to help meet some of the biggest challenges that we face as a society.

The projects are being supported through the Bioinformatics and Biological Resources fund which aims to provide scientists with important resources such as databases, new software tools and libraries. These are essential tools for modern data-driven biology.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said "Many of the exciting breakthroughs that have been achieved by modern biology have only been possible because of advances in technology. Developing new tools and techniques to allow us to make the most of the vast amounts of data that bioscience produces is a vital and often underappreciated aspect of research. Projects like these are allowing scientists to make major insights and solve previously intractable puzzles at unprecedented speed."

One of the funded projects, led by researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL), will provide a central repository for models to be shared amongst biologists. Researchers will be able to browse available models via a website and then download them for use in their own work. Making these models more accessible promises to help scientists understand how biological systems work and could help researchers in fields including drug discovery and synthetic biology.

Another project, led by the University of Dundee, aims to provide scientists in 140 countries with the tools to take raw genetic sequence data and make predictions about the structure and function of the proteins that they might encode. This will help researchers to make better use of the enormous volumes of DNA sequence data that are generated in modern bioscience.

A community resource in wheat transformation is also being funded at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB). The aim is to provide plant scientists with access to the best public wheat transformation system currently available anywhere in the world. The resource could help increase wheat yields in the face of food security challenges.

The ten funded projects are:

  • Professor Bonnie Ann Wallace , Birkbeck College, and Dr Robert Janes, Queen Mary, University of London - The Protein Circular Dichroism Data Bank, the DichroWeb Server, and ValiDichro: Data Sharing, Analysis and Standards Resources for CD Spectroscopy
  • Dr Alex Bateman and Dr Paul Kersey, EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute - The RNA central database of non-coding RNAs
  • Professor Michael J Sternberg, Imperial College London - Maintaining and extending PHYRE2 to deliver an internationally-recognised resource for protein model
  • Professor Pedro Mendes, University of Manchester - COPASI - Open source software for advanced biochemical network modelling
  • Professor Thomas Freeman, University of Edinburgh, and Dr Anton Enright, EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute - Development of a Rapid Processing Pipeline and Graph-based Visualization for the Analysis of Next Generation Sequencing Data
  • Professor Peter Ghazal, University of Edinburgh - The SPRINT approach to network biology
  • Dr Nicolas Le Novere, EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute - BioModels Database, the comprehensive resource for computational models in biology
  • Mr Henning Hermjakob, EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute - DAS in the age of data-driven research
  • Professor Andy Greenland, National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) - A community resource in wheat transformation
  • Professor Geoffrey Barton, University of Dundee - The Dundee Resource for Protein Structure Prediction and Sequence Analysis

ENDS

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £500M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk .
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes .