Friday, December 17, 2010

Mutation-prediction software rewarded

A computer program that predicts the effects of gene mutations has earned its author a doctorate, a stack of journal publications — and now a dancing wind-up toy named Molly. Yana Bromberg, a bioinformatician at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, won the toy for her program, SNAP, in an experimental contest that culminated on 10 December in Berkeley, California. The competition, called the Critical Assessment of Genome Interpretation (CAGI), asks researchers to predict the biological effects of different mutations, and compares their results against unpublished experimental data. The contest was conceived by Berkeley Lab physical bioscientist Steven Brenner, and John Moult, a computational biologist at the University of Maryland in Rockville. Their goal is to accelerate the development of software that can quickly interpret large amounts of genetic data — for example, the whole genome sequence of a tumour from a biopsy. More>