SCIENCE & ENGINEERING NEWS
Blacksburg, VA. — Bioinformatics experts from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (USA) and the European Media Laboratory (Germany) have joined forces to develop a software for simulating biochemical networks.
In the international bioinformatics market, cooperation is better than competition. That is the conviction of two young research institutes from the United States and Germany: the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) and the European Media Laboratory (EML), Heidelberg. At the moment, they are working on a software package for simulating and analyzing biochemical networks.
The transatlantic project goes by the name of COPASI (COmplex PAthway SImulator) and marshals a powerful arsenal of simulation and analysis methods, putting it ahead of comparable research programs available at present.
According to Pedro Mendes (VBI), the person heading the COPASI project along with Ursula Kummer (EML), the new software will enable experimental biochemists around the world to simulate complex metabolic processes in cells without taking the time to master the enormous mathematical and computing skills currently required. “This is a software, but it is really like a new technology,” said Mendes. “I don’t need to know how an electron microscope works in order to use one. This software will open the door to thousands of new research possibilities that will greatly expand our knowledge of the cellular process.
According to Bruno Sobral, director of VBI, “the future of biology is intimately tied to computational modeling and simulation. This project will emphasize this approach, as well as start the establishment of VBI as an internationally recognized bioinformatics institute.”
COPASI is based on software developed by Mendes and Kummer. There are good reasons for this close collaboration: the two young scientists have similar research approaches and the two institutions they represent both concentrate on research into metabolic pathways. “So it obviously made good sense to pool our resources and benefit from the synergistic effects,” says Kummer.
Mendes agrees: “The research interests of the two groups complement each other and we have similar views on how simulation will become a major tool in biology. This collaboration is an excellent way to continue my previous work.”
EML will be putting its biochemical database at the disposal of the COPASI project as well.
The teams from Germany and the United States will meet twice a year, otherwise keeping a close eye on the progress of the project via electronic communication. When fully developed, the software package will be made free of charge for scientists working in the academic sphere. Commercial users also may benefit by acquiring licenses to draw on its resources.
In April 2000, the Commonwealth of Virginia established the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute ( http://www.vbi.vt.edu ) at Virginia Tech. VBI is a research and economic development institute; the researchers working there also cooperate closely with various departments at Virginia Tech and throughout the commonwealth to provide training for graduate and postdoctoral students.