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ATP Grant Awarded
CAMBRIDGE, MA - October 4, 2000 – 3rd Millennium, the world’s leading bioinformatics consultancy, announced today it has been awarded a $1.8 million grant from the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) of the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) ( http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/g00-179.htm ) in the U.S. Department of Commerce. The grant will be used by the company to develop state of the art software needed to integrate, analyze, and organize the use of information for gene-based research conducted by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies worldwide.
"The benefits of this support are potentially enormous, in that it advances a new paradigm for the development of gene-based pharmaceuticals and diagnostics," said Richard Dweck, president of 3rd Millennium. "It enables us to validate and accelerate the development of the major technological advances we have been working on so that they can be in widespread use within two years."
"Much has been done to analyze genomic sequences and their related expression patterns, but in terms of understanding the protein products and their roles in living systems, we are at a very early stage," said Eric Neumann, Ph.D., principal investigator for the project and vice president of life science informatics at 3 rd Millennium. "Without a view of the interactions, systems and pathways, we are where financial analysts were before the arrival of modern computers, databases, and software tools such as spreadsheets. The sum total of current research is hundreds of millions of data points loosely organized, all of which will need to be interconnected and made available to research applications and scientists working throughout the various stages of drug discovery. This project will help industry realize the full benefits of their genomic investments".
The company's work will focus on shifting the approach to information management from one of lists of "biological objects" to one of networks of biological pathways that tie together gene function and expression, protein interactions, disease models, and responses to therapies, all in the context of the organs, tissues, and cells in which they occur. This will necessitate the development of new technologies for handling complex data relationships and "query-by-traversals" analogous to those used by the World Wide Web. According to Dr. Neumann, "this technology will accelerate drug discovery research by enabling the intelligent identification and prioritization of new drug targets and therapies."
At the August 2000 meeting of the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB), 3rd Millennium, in partnership with Paris-based proteomics company Hybrigenics announced the formation of the BioPathways Consortium. The goal of the Consortium is to facilitate the establishment of common computing standards for information analyses related to genome-based drug development by researchers representing government agencies, industry and academic organizations worldwide. The Consortium intends to work closely with other life science informatics efforts.
Dr. Neumann noted that the worldwide biopathways informatics standard that will be specified by the Consortium would be closely adhered to in 3 rd Millennium grant-related development efforts. "These standards will enable tools and databases associated with pathways data to be automatically connected together in a fashion that makes sense to scientists. They also will certainly have a direct effect on the specifications and requirements for computational hardware manufacturers who wish to focus in the life science industry," Dr. Neumann remarked.
In the early stages of work under the grant, development of the basic information management system for handling real data from model organisms of increasing complexity, including the human genome, will be addressed. Soon thereafter, the system will be layered by other interactive components such as database wrappers, pathway model constructors and analyzers, external management of data resources, intelligent, cross-domain querying, visualization tools, simulations engines, and expert system inferencing that focus on biological cause and effect.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the ATP was created to help U.S. industry tackle the challenging, high-risk research and development projects needed to accelerate the development of path-breaking new technologies that are important to the economy. The NIST Advanced Technology Program accepts proposals from any industry and any field of technology. The ATP seeks proposals for innovative research and development that offers the potential for widespread benefits for the U.S. economy and society as a whole. ATP projects range from aquaculture to X-ray lithography, and the program has contributed significantly to technological advances in fields as diverse as automated DNA analysis, superconducting electronics, automobile assembly and software systems for the healthcare industry. Past grant recipients include such companies as 3M, Affymetrix, Curagen, and General Electric.
3rd Millennium, Inc. (www.3rdmill.com) is an independent company that works with leaders in the research-based pharmaceutical industry who require intelligent information systems to enhance their companies' genomic drug discovery efforts.
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