Leading AIDS researcher touts role of IT in biotechnology

Leading AIDS researcher touts role of IT in biotechnology

The role of computer modeling in fighting bioterrorism and tracking and treating diseases like AIDS and SARS can't be underestimated, one of the nation's leading infectious disease researchers said today.

In biotechnology research, "the common denominator now is information technology," said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Instututes of Health.

Fauci spoke at the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual convention in Washington where bioinformatics, an emerging field that melds biotechnology and computer technology, is a theme.

NIH today made available to SARS researchers a free gene chip, a reference strain of the virus embedded in a quartz chip, to help researchers understand SARS. The pneumonialike virus has killed 800 people and sickened more than 8,000 worldwide since it was first identified last November.

"This is going to be a boon for investigators" that wouldn't have been possible without rapid advances in IT, he said.

Computers and computer models "have permeated a variety of our endeavors," letting scientists decode the genetic makeup of viruses in hours, rather than weeks or months, Fauci said.

Fauci stressed that collaboration between government, academic and industry scientists is essential, especially in developing a vaccine for SARS.

"There is no one group that is going to be able to do it alone," he said.

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