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National Science Foundation Awards $1.4 Million For Genocad Development

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Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech professor Jean Peccoud has been awarded a three-year, $1.42 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a Web-based computer-aided design (CAD) environment for synthetic biology called GenoCAD. Synthetic biology uses engineering methods to design artificial biological systems and has been used to re-design natural systems to better understand the fundamental properties of living organisms. "We are considering DNA as a language to program living organisms instead of computers," Peccoud says. "This analogy has led us to apply methods and results from computer science to biology."

GenoCAD will feature a point-and-click interface that enables users to select icons representing structural features of functional blocks to create DNA sequences. Once a design is finished, the sequence can be downloaded for synthesis or additional analysis.

Peccoud says GenoCAD's development will be community-driven, with synthetic biology researchers helping to advance the project so it meets a wide range of user needs. Users will be able to customize a free, public version of GenoCAD to meet specific needs. Early applications of GenoCAD include designing vaccines, sensors for biodefense, and pathways for biofuel production.

From Virginia Bioinformatics Institute
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