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By Malorye Branca

October 15, 2003 | BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo is getting high-profile help in fulfilling its goal of becoming a bioinformatics heavyweight. Its first "Frontiers in Bioinformatics" symposium in June featured, along with renowned bioinformaticians, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Democratic senator from New York and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-N.Y., were honored for their support of the university's new Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics.

 Buffalo Hillary: University at Buffalo president William R. Greiner awarded Sen. Hillary Clinton the university's Igniting Ideas Award. 
Clinton, Reynolds, and a long list of community, university, and state government representatives have helped generate almost $300 million in funding and commitments for the new center. The goal is to make Buffalo a world leader in bioinformatics by merging supercomputing, genomics, bioimaging, and other disciplines. "I am hopeful that when people think of bioinformatics, they will think of Buffalo," Clinton said.

"Now that we have mapped the human genome, we will all be uninsurable," she added, predicting that in 5 to 10 years, tests would be available to reveal inherited risk of many diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. According to Clinton, this development raises challenges to the insurance industry and many other groups. It also reinforces the need for treatment breakthroughs.

Jeffrey Skolnick, director of the center, said his group obviously won't be "developing billion-dollar molecules tomorrow," but despite the dismal performance of the bioinformatics business sector, he sees great opportunity ahead. "The bioinformatics business boom happened too early and promised too much," Skolnick said. "There is still a great deal to be done, and academic centers like ours can show industry the true potential of bioinformatics."

Skolnick said bioinformatics already offers practical tools for some difficult problems. For example, one of the center's key goals, he said, is to learn more about "what makes a protein target druggable." Skolnick's talk on that subject was one of the liveliest, and most controversial, at the symposium, which he aims to turn into an annual "Keystone meeting or a Gordon conference in systems biology." The next meeting will feature sessions on new topics, including disease pathogens, developmental biology, neurobiology, and drug discovery.

Back to Protein Structure Prediction in Drug Discovery 

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