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Vol. LXII, No. 2
January 22, 2010
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NIAID Supports International Bioinformatics Workshops

NIAID’s Michael Tartakovsky (third from l) visits the Agence National de Telemedicine et Informatique Medical (ANTIM) of the Ministry of Health while attending the International Bioinformatics Festival held recently in Bamako, Mali. Shown with him are (from l) Tidiani Togola; Dr. Danaya Kone; director of ANTIM Dr. Ousamane Ly; ANTIM Deputy Director Madame Cisse Anta Sidibe; and Christopher Whalen of NIAID’s Global Biomedical Research Support Program.

NIAID’s Michael Tartakovsky (third from l) visits the Agence National de Telemedicine et Informatique Medical (ANTIM) of the Ministry of Health while attending the International Bioinformatics Festival held recently in Bamako, Mali. Shown with him are (from l) Tidiani Togola; Dr. Danaya Kone; director of ANTIM Dr. Ousamane Ly; ANTIM Deputy Director Madame Cisse Anta Sidibe; and Christopher Whalen of NIAID’s Global Biomedical Research Support Program.

NIAID is leaving a global footprint as it develops international partnerships in the study of infectious diseases through the use of bioinformatics and computational biology technologies. Mike Tartakovsky, director of NIAID’s Office of Cyber Infrastructure and Computational Biology, and Dr. Yentram Huyen, chief of the office’s Bioinformatics and Computational Biosciences Branch, recently delivered a keynote address at the first joint conference of the International Society for Computational Biology and the African Society for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology held in Bamako, Mali. Scholars and professionals from the United States and 24 African and European countries attended presentations and workshops focused on bioinformatics of infectious diseases.

“The conference was a resounding success,” Tartakovsky said. “It was a great opportunity to learn from colleagues from around the world and share with them our experiences in building a bioinformatics and computational biology program and supporting infrastructure.”

The conference provided participants with the tools and information to enable them to develop or maintain bioinformatics programs in their respective countries. Tartakovsky and Huyen spoke about the challenges of building a sustainable bioinformatics program and shared best practices. “Pulling bioinformatics and information technology under the same umbrella provides an unprecedented opportunity for cross communication and collaboration,” Tartakovsky said.

In the company of sponsors such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the Wellcome Trust and the European Molecular Biology Network, NIAID’s sponsorship included providing IT equipment and network connectivity, making possible the numerous workshops that covered topics ranging from the functional, structural and comparative genomics of pathogens to database and resource development for infectious disease research.

NIAID technical staff members (from l) Sidy Soumare, Amadou Diallo, Brian Moyer and Moses Mubiru install computer workstations used in International Bioinformatics Festival workshops.

NIAID technical staff members (from l) Sidy Soumare, Amadou Diallo, Brian Moyer and Moses Mubiru install computer workstations used in International Bioinformatics Festival workshops.

Field visits to the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research and the Laboratory of Malaria Immunology and Vaccinology sites located in villages outside of Bamako by Tartakovsky and other NIAID conference participants yielded the opportunity to observe the impact made on the research sites by the infrastructure developed and maintained by NIAID’s Global Biomedical Research Support Program headed by Christopher Whalen.

“The NIH international research mission provides critical support for some global health initiatives and I am happy to be a part of NIAID’s contribution,” Whalen said. “NIAID’s sponsorship of events such as the international bioinformatics festival builds global research capacity aiding the fight against diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis that kill millions every year.”

Tartakovsky will return to Mali for the dedication of a new research center named for the late Dr. John LaMontagne, a former NIAID deputy director who led the effort for the development of the Mali Service Center.

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