Computational and Genome Biology Initiative

Lead Coordinator and Contact: James C. Carrington

Through a remarkable series of events over the past 10 years, bioscience has transformed into an information-based and multidisciplinary science. This transformation resulted from an explosion of genome data that were enabled by brilliant combinations of ambitious vision, highly motivated research communities, high-throughput robotics and engineering, and novel computational methods. In fact, the generation and availability of genome data far outpace our ability to mine and use these data for the benefit of society. Future breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture, and environmental science depend on new and innovative combinations mathematical, computational, and system-wide biological approaches that cross conventional disciplinary boundaries. This initiative seeks to build and extend significant new strength at OSU in genome-based and computational biology.

Both basic and applied bioscience-related research at OSU and elsewhere will continue to shift away from qualitative, descriptive activities and towards mathematical approaches that make use of high-throughput technologies and exceedingly large information databases. These changes are sweeping over biology rapidly. For example, analysis of the effects of a drug on human cells is no longer done by examining limited numbers of proteins, genes and biochemical pathways, but rather by measuring in parallel the activity of all genes, all major biochemical pathways and a large proportion of proteins within cells. This requires new technology, new mathematical tools and new computational paradigms.

Bioscientists of the future will have far more training in mathematics, engineering and computational science, and will more often participate in large, interdisciplinary research groups. OSU as an engine for development of Oregon-based bioscience industries, and as a provider of a skilled workforce for these industries, depends entirely on research innovations and delivery of an education that emphasizes genome-based science and advanced computational skills. This initiative builds upon existing strength and recent investments to ensure that success of biosciences research at OSU translates into benefits for the State of Oregon.

The overarching rationale of this Initiative is that core strength in fundamental bioscience technology and education is a major driver of breakthrough advances and innovation in all fields related to biological science. New faculty with broad vision in genome and computational biology will be recruited. They will i) join scientific teams at OSU to significantly expand areas of excellence, ii) develop highly fundable research programs in forefront areas of bioscience, iii) expand and elevate recent efforts and investment by the Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology (CGRB) in computational and genome biology, iv) develop new core functions and facilities that all bioscientists at OSU can access and deploy in their research and teaching programs, and v) drive the graduate curriculum in the Molecular and Cellular Biology graduate program towards a mathematical perspective on biological systems. In addition, the Initiative funds graduate fellowships in genome and computational biology. In addition to new funding from the Provost's Initiative, matching funds totaling over $1.5 million will be provided by the CGRB and OSU Research Office.