Stanford gets ontology grant

The National Institutes of Health announced that it awarded the Stanford University School of Medicine a grant of $18.8 million to develop a National Center for Biomedical Ontology. The goal of the center is to design and implement computer systems that will allow life science researchers to share, compare and analyze data gathered from large-scale biomedical research. The grant is payable over five years and has the potential to be renewed for an additional five years.

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STANFORD, Calif.—The National Institutes of Health announced  that it awarded the Stanford University School of Medicine a grant of $18.8 million to develop a National Center for Biomedical Ontology. The goal of the center is to design and implement computer systems that will allow life science researchers to share, compare and analyze data gathered from large-scale biomedical research. The grant is payable over five years and has the potential to be renewed for an additional five years.
 
The group will be led by Dr. Mark Musen, professor of medical informatics at Stanford, and will also include researchers from several affiliated institutions including the University of California, Berkeley, the Mayo Clinic, University of Victoria, University at Buffalo, University of Cambridge, University of Oregon and University of California, San Francisco.
 
"The work that we have done [at Stanford] on tools to help build ontologies and manage ontologies is important and, at the same time, we have the opportunity to team with other groups that are doing work that is also central to this area," says Musen of the grant. One group is the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project, headed by Suzanna Lewis, who is co-principal investigator on the project.
 
First task is to begin development of a resource that will allow the biomedical community to access ontologies and use them in ways that are "more helpful than current open biomedical ontologies resources," says Musen. "Right now people are taking ontologies that they write and are throwing them over the wall, hosting them on SourceForge. This is obviously important and provides a way for the community to share results, but we also want to be able to make those ontologies accessible in a more helpful way."
 
This would include creating better indexing and allowing annotations and providing information about where the onotologies have been used. "Ultimately the goal is to make publication about medical knowledge online of the same quality as publication of medical knowledge in journals," says Musen.
 
The center will work to create the technologies to make ontologies successful, such as web-accessible tools and library browsing  that would allow users to examine the content and annotate the ontologies. "Right now you can see the titles of ontologies, but you can't see their pedigree," says Musen, "and we think that is going to be very important to people who use them in the future."


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