05 February 2013
Seeing the Forest through the Wood Chips: NICBR Scientists Seek Solutions to Disease by Studying Nucleic Acid Sequences

NICBR Public Affairs and Community Relations Subcommittee  

Scientists from the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research recently presented findings on cutting-edge genomics and bioinformatics research on Dec. 12, 2012 at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research Advanced Technology Research Facility.  Genomics and the related bioinformatics sciences focus on analysis of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) as they affect genes associated with cancer and infectious microorganisms.  This NICBR symposium, part of a series of forums initiated by the NICBR Scientific Interactions Subcommittee, was facilitated by Nick Bergman, Senior Principal Investigator of Genomics at the Department of Homeland Security-National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center and Bob Stephens, Director of the Bioinformatics Support Group, part of the Advanced Biomedical Computing Center at the FNLCR.

“The field of genomics has evolved very quickly, with advances in sequencing technology and bioinformatics methods driving new approaches to biological problems,” Bergman said.

During the opening session, Stephens said that this is an opportunity for sharing experiences, stimulating discussions on current work, and identifying new and useful approaches in genomics and bioinformatics.

The symposium included seven presentations by scientists from NICBR agencies, including theDHS, National Institutes of Health, FNL, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Naval Medical Research Center. Other speakers included representatives from The Johns Hopkins University, Pacific Biosciences, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Beginning sessions included a talk by research fellow, Xin Zheng (NIH), on identifying therapeutic targets for the fungal pathogen called Pneumocystis through DNA sequencing and another from NCI research fellow, Hui Yang (FNL), who shared her findings on links between DNA sequence patterns called ‘palindromes’ and certain cancers. 

Later, Kim Bishop-Lilly, scientist at the NMRC, presented a poster on genomics and bioinformatics strategies for field operations, and Steve Schroeder, from the USDA Agricultural Research Service, presented a poster and a talk on beef cattle genomics. 

The symposium wrapped up with bioinformatics discussions by Sergey Koren (NBACC) on DNA sequence assembly strategies using computational methods, and Todd Treangen (NBACC), who described the cutting-edge computational tools he uses to reassemble DNA sequences. He said that identifying microorganisms from the DNA found in a mass of environmental material was like piecing together wood chips to form the recognizable trees of a forest. Each presentation stimulated a variety of questions and discussions on how it related to or could potentially influence other lines of research.

Posted by PAO

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