Minutes - College Research Committee - University of Edinburgh


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Minutes of College Research Committee, 26 February 2003 (




Minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday 26 February 2003 at 2.00 pm in

the Elder Room, Old College


Professor C Haslett (Convener)

Professor G Fowke

Professor P Ghazal

Professor C Gregory

Professor D Porteous

Professor J Smyth

Professor N Turner

Professor M E J Woolhouse

Dr H Cubie

Dr M Shipston

Ms L MacDonald

In attendance:

Dr R Baldock

Professor S G N Grant

Professor R Millar


J Mullins

Mr L Golightley

Mr P McGuire (Secretary)


Professor P Brophy

Professor S Hillier

Professor J Savill, Head of College

Professor J R Seckl

Professor E Watson

Professor D J Webb

Dr R Smailes

The Convener welcomed the fol
lowing persons who were invited for the discussion on Bioinformatics:
Dr Richard Baldock of the Human Genetics Unit, Professor Robert Millar, Director of the
Reproductive Human Sciences Unit, Professor Seth Grant, Director of the Wellcome Trust Genes to
gnition Functional Genomics Programme, and Professor John Mullins, Co
Director of the Wellcome
Trust Functional Genomics Programme in Cardiovascular Biology.


Minutes of the meeting held on 18 December 2002

These were approved, subject to the followin
g amendment:

Item 11. Any other business: Clinical Research Facility

The last sentence should read: ‘Mrs Ali Stevens of the CRF will co
ordinate and lead the
development of both committees, in collaboration with the Trust R&D Director.’


Matters arisin

There were none.


Outline research strategy: Discussion paper from the

Head of College and the Director of Research

This was essentially a prompt for discussion. At this stage only centres had been included, but
eventually the paper would form
part of a larger strategy document. Feedback was most
welcome, and this should be forwarded to the Director of Research or the Committee Secretary.

Minutes of College Research Committee, 26 February 2003 (


Research “Technology Engines”: Bioinformatics

: Bioinformatics has multiple definitions a
nd is a rapidly evolving science. It
concerns the

developing of computer databases and algorithms for the purpose of enhancing
biological research, and
includes areas such as data analysis, genomics and its functions,
proteomics and the analysis of imaging
. Its importance to the Life Sciences is more in data
handling than computation. While it serves biomedical science, it is also a subject for research in
its own right.

Current interface:

This is most in evidence in Neuroscience, where it includes master
s and
doctoral training programmes provided for around 50 Neuroinformatics students. Elsewhere
within the College, it includes gene expression databases, imaging analysis, genotyping
phenotyping, proteomics, embedded Bioinformaticians at Roslin and most re
cently a proposal
for a Scottish spoke of Biobank UK, the largest ever study of its type.

: The College needs to know what Bioinformatics infrastructure it requires over
the next five years for our current and emerging research centres to r
emain competitive. A
wide strategy is required, within a University
wide strategy. A critical mass of activity
and a concentration of shared technology must be achieved, but disparate sites and themes must
be served.

In the College of Science a
nd Engineering, Professor Bulfield plans to establish a Centre for
Bioinformatics, with a new chair, under the umbrella of the School of Informatics and based in
the e.Science Centre. It was argued that the proposed new Informatics building on the Crichton

Street carpark will be in the wrong location, in view of the planned re
location of so many
researchers to Easter Bush and Little France and others already there or at Kings Buildings, and
that strategically the building would be much more significant as
a Bioinformatics hub at Little
France. However, it may be too late at this stage to propose an alternative location.

At the Sanger Institute, Cambridge, there is a large, sophisticated, cutting edge Informatics
department located next door to the genome
research centre. However, Edinburgh differs in
having multiple sites and very diverse research themes. A key challenge for Edinburgh will be to
develop multiple effective Bioinformatics interfaces while avoiding duplication.

Training in Bioinformatics,
including joint supervision, is vital. The MRC has facilitated training
from an early career stage, through summer schools and workshops.

Generic areas:
Within the College, the need for Bioinformatics is broadening, and to a large
degree individual grou
ps will develop their own in
house needs, but there is still a requirement
to tap into a ‘core’ of bioinformaticians (as the science is advancing rapidly) and to identify
common needs, to avoid duplication. Some “generic” areas are:

organisation of inform

information management systems, databases and database
architecture. Little can be purchased off the shelf and development time is needed but this is
a useful resource

new statistics for new technologies. A core working group with common standards


mathematical approaches that can be shared (e.g. protein
protein interactions)

modelling of data.

All require investment, but benefits would be derived from resource sharing. Common threads
can be developed and eventually links establ
ished with research teams. Increasingly there will be
purchasable software platforms.

It was



the development of Bioinformatics technology is a College research priority, in order to
underpin the international quality of our research in all
key areas


Science and Engineering and the e.Science Centre should be aware of this and of our major
research growth areas. It may be necessary to further explore a strategic interface and

Minutes of College Research Committee, 26 February 2003 (


the College should establish a strong Bioinformatics p
resence at Little France, possibly in
the basement of the new Research Institute. Further, designated Bioinformatics support is
needed at the Western General Hospital to enhance cancer and genetics research


The Committee should be informed of the proposed
use of the Crichton Street building and
the plans for the new Centre for Bioinformatics

iv) Directors of Research Centres will be approached to provide details of their plans and
anticipated needs for bioinformatics infrastructure. It may be important in
some areas for
research leaders to be made aware of how the adaptation of new developments in
informatics could greatly enhance their research, and the Convener has proposed a
“Bioinformatics Research Day”


possible priority areas for investment in the
near future are quantitative genetics and


Framework VI

Deferred until the next meeting.


Strategic use of College scholarships and fellowships

Deferred until the next meeting.


Research Assessment Exercise: Best Practice Guidance



Date of next meeting


April 2003 at 2 pm

in the McEwan Hall Reception Room, Medical Buildings,
Teviot Place.

The main item of discussion will be Imaging as a research “technology engine”.


Any other business

There was none.