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An Interschool Center for Bioinformatics

A coalition of three Penn schols has established a Center for Bioinformatics at the University, based in the Institute for Medicine and Engineering and directed by Dr. Chris Overton, research associate professor of genetics, with Dr. Susan Davidson, associate professor of Computer and Information Sciences, as co-director.

"The recent explosion of knowledge about the essential properties of life (as gleaned from the Human Genome Project and similar efforts ), along with rapid advances in computer technology, have laid the foundation for the development," said an announcement from PennMed, describing bioinformatics as a "newly emerging discipline that provides a scientific structure for the collection, management, analysis, and interpretation oft he staggering amounts of data being generated from large-scale biology projects throughout the world."

The School of Medicine, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and School of Arts and Science are involved in what the Institute for Medicine and Engineering's director, Dr. Peter F. Davies, describes as "a superb example of interschool discovery, education, and application."

The Center will focus initially on research, education and joint academic/industry ventures. The first goal is to build a critical mass of researchers based at Penn, according to Dr. Overton. "With federal government and industry research grants, Center investigators are already working to create new computer programs to improve the compatibility of the nearly 400 genomic databases already available."

Next, said Dr. Davidson, is the education of future leaders in bioinformatics itself. Already one of the few schools offering doctoral and postdoctoral programs in biocmputational biology, Penn is adding a B.S. through SEAS and an M.S. in Biotechnology with a track in computational biology and bioinformatics. "We are one of the few universities covering all of the educational bases in the field, from B.S. to Ph.D.," Dr. Davidson said.

Through a seminar series called the Penn Bioinformatics Forum, the University will also bring together investigators from academia and industry to exchange ideas and discuss research issued. The partnership is also expected to lead to the creation of practical internships and fellowships.

Starting with three core faculty, seven associated faculty, and 14 programmers, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and support personnel, the Center expects to recruit three new senior faculty members and associated staff persons in the next three years. For more information, the Center's website is

Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, September 30, 1997, Volume 44, Number 6