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Genome analysis center at Indiana University awarded National Science Foundation funding

Grant renewal will support expansion of programs supporting genome biology research

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.— The National Center for Genome Analysis Support (NCGAS) at Indiana University has been awarded $962,613 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue its work aiding discovery and innovation in biological sciences that use genomic methods. The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) received $289,203 as part of the NCGAS renewal in a separate, collaborative grant.

The three-year grant renewal will support NCGAS’s ongoing and expanding activities, including bioinformatics consulting, education and outreach programs on genome analysis and assembly, and long-term archival storage for genome biologists. The center currently serves researchers across the United States and Puerto Rico, enabling the analysis and utilization of currently available genomic information.

“This new grant represents judgment by the national research community and the National Science Foundation that NCGAS is delivering important and valuable services to the research community of the United States,” said Craig Stewart, executive director of the IU Pervasive Technology Institute. “Particularly important are NCGAS services to researchers working at institutions and in states that are doing great and important research, but with relatively modest funding from the National Science Foundation overall.”

The three-year grant renewal will support NCGAS’s ongoing and expanding activities, including bioinformatics consulting, education and outreach programs on genome analysis and assembly, and long-term archival storage for genome biologists.

“We’re excited to continue our collaboration with Indiana University to lower barriers for researchers who need to analyze large-scale genomics data,” said Philip Blood, principal investigator of the collaborative NCGAS award at PSC. “Through this new award, NCGAS will continue to provide biologists with expert help in applying advanced computing technologies to genome analysis that will drive discovery in their fields.”

In 2011, the NSF awarded Indiana University a $1.5 million Advances in Biological Informatics (ABI) grant to establish NCGAS, and a 2015 sustaining award from the NSF continued the center’s mission. NCGAS resources are available to NSF-funded researchers at no cost, to help the biological research community analyze, understand, and use the wealth of genomic information available to them. Researchers also have access to the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a virtual system for sharing computing resources, data, and expertise interactively.

As scientific needs evolve, NCGAS continues to seek out ways to serve the community. The NSF-funded Jetstream cloud computing system, co-located at IU’s Pervasive Technology Institute (PTI) and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas, Austin, has been used to run workshops, providing cyberinfrastructure to biologists through the use of pre-provisioned virtual machines (VMs).

NCGAS leverages PSC’s converged HPC, Big Data, and AI system known as Bridges, also funded by NSF, to enable increasingly large and complex genome and metagenome analyses.

At the request of the NSF, NCGAS is also exploring how national cyberinfrastructure can serve the needs of biological field stations—with 78% of the U.S. population living within 60 miles of a field station, they are accessible sources of long-term environmental data. To learn more, NCGAS attended the 2017 and 2018 Organization of Biological Field Stations meetings at the Itasca Biological Station in Minnesota. U.S. field stations have clear needs in data management, storage, and movement that national cyberinfrastructure will have solutions for, and NCGAS continues to work to bring users and providers together.

“In the past year, NCGAS has had the opportunity to expand its workshop offerings, and with the new grant hopes to explore new offerings,” said Tom Doak, NCGAS manager and principal investigator. “Genomics brings biologists face-to-face with high performance computing, and HPC systems administrators face-to-face with biologists. We hope that some of our workshops can facilitate that interaction, so that researchers doing genomics can effectively use HPC tools.”

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Established in 1986, PSC is supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry, and is a leading partner in XSEDE.

About the National Center for Genome Analysis Support (NCGAS)
The mission of the National Center for Genome Analysis Support (NCGAS) is to enable the biological research community of the US to analyze, understand, and make use of the vast amount of genomic information now available. NCGAS focuses particularly on transcriptome- and genome-level assembly, phylogenetics, metagenomics/ transcriptomics and community genomics. Many of NCGAS’ services are available at no charge to researchers and research students at US institutions of higher education. NCGAS is a collaborative organization, with partnerships rooted in the Research Technologies division of UITS, the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, and the  Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. NCGAS is affiliated with the IU Pervasive Technology Institute.