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June 20, 2008

Columbia University Medical Center to Operate
Knowledge Center for National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute has awarded the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) and the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (C2B2) at Columbia University Medical Center a contract to operate a “Knowledge Center” for the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG™) initiative. Columbia University Medical Center, in collaboration with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, is one of five centers awarded the designation nationwide.

The caBIG™ initiative, overseen by the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology, was conceived to advance basic and clinical research on cancer and improve clinical outcomes for patients. Information such as patient registries, tissue management data and study results can be uploaded to the grid-based system.

The initiative has successfully launched key tools, and infrastructure based on agreed-upon common standards and policy resources that enable individuals and organizations in the cancer community and other domains to be more efficient and innovative. NCI is now launching a series of service programs as part of its caBIG™ Enterprise Support Network designed to support and extend caBIG™ tools, standards and infrastructure.

Knowledge Centers are NCI-supported entities focusing on the specific domains in which they have expertise, such as centers that are focused on bioinformatics. As part of the network, each caBIG™ Knowledge Center provides a centralized, authoritative repository of knowledge and information, and web-based support to facilitate the adoption of caBIG™ tools, standards and infrastructure for that domain. 

“We have been active participants and contributors to the caBIG initiative since its inception,” said Andrea Califano, associate director of the HICCC and co-director of the C2B2. “We believe that the infrastructure and innovative applications coming out of the program will prove to be key enablers of cancer research.”

The two Columbia centers, C2B2 and HICCC, together with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, have been selected to operate the caBIG™ Molecular Analysis Tools Knowledge Center. The mission of the Knowledge Center is to promote the adoption of caBIG™ technologies aiming to facilitate the discovery of the next generation of cancer diagnostics and therapeutics which will help realize the vision of molecular and personalized medicine.

Four key tools will be supported by the Columbia Knowledge Center: geWorkbench, which provides an innovative, open-source software platform for genomic data integration, bringing together analysis and visualization tools for gene expression, sequences, pathways, and other biomedical data; GenePattern, which puts sophisticated computational methods into the hands of the biomedical research community; caArray, a system that supports the management and exchange of array data and annotations; and caIntegrator, a novel translational informatics platform that allows researchers to access and analyze clinical and experimental data across multiple clinical trials and studies.

“We are excited to help support the transition of caBIG from a concept to a practical reality that will allow cancer researchers to study the disease using advanced biomedical informatics tools and the power of caGRID,” said C2B2 Executive Director Aris Floratos.

The four other Knowledge Centers are Ohio State University and the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center together with University of Chicago and the Argonne National Lab; Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center with Northwestern University; the Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University at St. Louis; and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.