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Gazette: Great Seneca Science Corridor Labs Consider Cyberinfrastructure

By Sylvia Carignan
The Gazette

Research organizations in the Great Seneca Life Sciences Corridor are considering the creation of a common cyberinfrastructure that would facilitate sharing and spur innovative ideas.

Anil Srivastava, president of Open Health Systems Laboratory on Johns Hopkins University’s Montgomery County campus, proposed the idea and held a meeting Monday with physicians, university faculty and representatives from Cisco Systems, Montgomery County government, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, MedImmune and other organizations.

Srivastava emphasized the need for a network that fosters communication between organizations and transfers large volumes of data between them in the science corridor.

“All of that has become very, very essential to biomedical research,” Srivastava said.

The corridor, located west of I-270 at the southern border of the City of Gaithersburg and northern border of the City of Rockville, is a 900-acre concentration of universities, clinics and biotech companies. Future additions are slated to include the Corridor Cities Transitway, more commercial square footage and residential units.

Srivastava said there is “hardly any cyberinfrastructure in place to support the 21st century life sciences.” Data analysis on a large scale necessitates more powerful technology and networks with greater capacity, according to documents from the National Cancer Institute, a new addition to the Johns Hopkins campus in Montgomery County.

David McDonough, senior director of development oversight for Johns Hopkins University real estate, said the corridor has a wealth of untapped assets.

“We have the equivalent of the richest oil fields on the planet, and no one’s drilled,” he said.

Srivastava brought in Jim Dolgonas, president and CEO of the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, to advise the assembled group on forming a shared cyberinfrastructure.

“It really gets expensive when you’re talking about a lot of data,” Dolgonas said. Their first priority should be finding partners, then funding, he said.

Money will be one of the first hurdles the largely undefined project will face.

“There is no funding for what we’re trying to do,” Srivastava said.

Srivastava proposed creating a local area network across the planned development, anchored with biomedical computing centers that are connected to labs and research instruments, but many at the meeting emphasized the importance of enabling communication between people. He and the meeting’s attendees plan to seek feedback from their respective companies, and those who did not send representatives, before any details are determined.

Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Executive Director Elaine Amir said a collaboration is already a part of the campus’ culture. Some of the campus’ more than 30 private companies would not have known of each others’ existence without the university’s push for networking events, she said.

“We’re not a location, we’re a community,” she said.

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