Fox Chase Team Wins Smithsonian Award

Innovative Computer Technology Enables ”Virtual” Centers

A Fox Chase Cancer Center (FCCC) team led by Kenneth Buetow won the top science prize in the seventh annual Computerworld Smithsonian Awards Program. The team designed a computer technology that enhanced construction of a comprehensive human genetic map by the Cooperative Human Linkage Center (CHLC), a collaborative group composed of researchers at FCCC, University of Iowa, Harvard University, and Marshfield Medical Foundation. The work was funded by the NIH National Center for Human Genome Research.

According to Buetow, the technology created a ”center without walls,” establishing a new model for genome studies. Although such ”virtual” centers have been used in other fields, it was a first for human genome research.

This computerized system helped researchers complete a high-density human linkage map a short-term goal of the Human Genome Project a year ahead of schedule [Science 265, 1981 2144 (September 30, 1994) and HGN 6(4), 1, 14 15 (November 1994)]. This map, along with others being developed in the Human Genome Project, will ultimately help improve diagnosis and prevention of disease by allowing researchers to pinpoint genetic characteristics linked with specific cancers, birth defects, and other hereditary and nonhereditary disorders.

The map was compiled from linkage data generated during the past decade by CHLC, G?n?thon, University of Utah, Yale University, and over 100 CEPH collaborators. The FCCC team created the common database to distribute data and maps within the project, with clients at each site communicating via the Internet with a centralized server maintaining the CHLC database. A number of graphic interface tools that work as distributed applications were also developed.

The winning technology, which was selected from 265 nominations, will occupy a permanent place in the Smithsonian Institution’s research collection as part of the National Museum of American History exhibit ”The Information Age: People, Information, and Technology.” The awards program was begun in 1989 by Computerworld and the Smithsonian Institution to honor creative uses of information technology that benefit society and to identify these benefits for the general public