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BIOCOMP'08 Keynote - Prof. Brian D. Athey

Last modified 2008-06-21 09:32

The Emerging Field of Translational Bioinformatics - A National Perspective
Professor Brian D. Athey
Professor, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Departments of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine
Associate Director, U-M Center for Computational Medicine and Biology (CCMB)
Director, Biomedical Informatics Program (BIP), Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research
Principal Investigator, NIH National Center for Integrative Biomedical Informatics
The University of Michigan Medical School, USA

Date: July 14, 2008
Time: 1:00 PM
Location: Ballroom 5


    Translational Bioinformatics is an emerging interdisciplinary field of applied research and development that merges bioinformatics, clinical informatics, and clinical and translational research. Work done by my groups at the University of Michigan in our NIH National Center for Integrative Biomedical Informatics (NCIBI) and in our Biomedical Informatics Program of the U-M CTSA will illustrate the power and promise of this approach. Detailed examples illustrating the application of “Integrative Biomedical Informatics” to accelerate research and understanding of prostate cancer progression, metabolism and diabetes modeling, and of Bipolar Disorder will be given. Perspectives on how this problem-driven integrative approach enhances interactions with the NCBC, CTSA, BIRN, and caBIG national biomedical informatics communities will be described.


    Dr. Brian Athey received his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology (Biophysics concentration) from the University of Michigan (1990), with a research focus in macromolecular structural biology. Dr. Athey is currently a Professor of Biomedical Informatics in the University of Michigan Medical School Departments of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine; Dr. Athey is also a Professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in the UM Bioinformatics Graduate Program, and he is an active course master in the Program. In addition, he is founding Associate Director of the University of Michigan Center for Computational Medicine and Biology (, which has responsibility for the university-wide bioinformatics graduate program, interdisciplinary pilot grant programs, and for providing access to computing and data infrastructures for “omics” and systems biology technology throughout CCMB and beyond to medical school and campus researchers. Dr. Athey is the Principal Investigator of the NIH National Center for Integrative Biomedical Informatics (, one of only seven NIH National Centers for Biomedical Computing (NCBCs), a centerpiece of the NIH Roadmap initiative. He is also the Director of the U-M Clinical and Translational Sciences Award (CTSA) Biomedical Informatics Program, housed in the Michigan Center for Clinical and Health Research (MICHR). In this role has responsibility to direct the U-M Health Informatics Research Organization (HIRO), the U-M wide health informatics faculty consortium, and oversight of the MICHR Clinical Research Informatics Core. Dr. Athey is co-chair of the national CTSA Informatics Consortium Operations Committee.

    During his Ph.D. thesis research in the 1980s, Dr. Athey proposed the double helical crossed-linker model for the structure of chromatin, at that time controversial, but now thought to be the correct model for this critical macromolecular complex, and featured in many textbooks. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Athey served as the Director of Biological Imaging Programs at the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM; now part of General Dynamics). He is also a founding member of the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biology ( Dr. Athey was also a longtime collaborator with the world famous and late Professor Emmett Leith, the inventor of off-axis holography. He and Leith invented and demonstrated an incoherent white light holographic microscope in 2001 with their student Kurt Mills and collaborator David Dilworth. This was the capstone of 18 years of cutting-edge electron and optical microscopic-driven biological research. Dr. Athey is also well known for his work with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Visible Human Project (VHP), started in the mid 1990s, where he was the leader in establishing the first nationwide Internet2 end-to-end test-bed demonstration project with NIH/NLM Next Generation Internet (NGI) sponsorship in collaboration with Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center ( The NLM-funded VHP naturally lead to the establishment of the very successful DARPA Virtual Soldier Project (VSP) (, a nationwide consortium of which he was the Principal Investigator The DARPA VSP built from the NLM VHP to extend it from basic human anatomy to physiological modeling, functional simulation and prediction after a traumatic injury. Dr. Athey’s current research is in the area of applying “Integrative Biomedical Informatics” to understand the systems patho-physiology of Bipolar Disorder (with Melvin McInnis) and of Type-2 Diabetes (with Charles Burant). He is also active in working on modifying Electronic health Record (EHR) systems to support Clinical and Translational Research.

    Dr. Athey has published over 55 papers in the scientific literature, and has given well over 200 talks nationally, including several keynotes and plenary talks. He was awarded a Peace Fellowship of the Federation of American Scientists ( in 2000, for his efforts in the 1990s to prevent biological warfare and terrorism. He is an active Founder and Board Member of Scientists and Engineers for America ( Dr. Athey currently works as a special consultant to the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI), in the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Academic Co-Sponsors

Computational Biology and Functional Genomics Laboratory, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

International Society of Intelligent Biological Medicine

Horvath Laboratory, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), USA
Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, University of Minnesota, USA
Functional Genomics Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
BioMedical Informatics & Bio-Imaging Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Intelligent Data Exploration and Analysis Laboratory, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
Biomedical Cybernetics Laboratory, HST of Harvard University and MIT, USA
Center for the Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Harvard Statistical Genomics and Computational Laboratory, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Bioinformatics & Computational Biology Program, George Mason University, Virginia, USA
Hawkeye Radiology Informatics, Department of Radiology, College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa, USA
Medical Image HPC & Informatics Lab (MiHi Lab), University of Iowa, Iowa, USA
The University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA
PSU - Prince Sultan University, Saudi Arabia
Institute for Informatics Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.
NEMO/European Union at Institute of Discrete Mathematics and Geometry, TU Vienna

Corporate Sponsors

Other Co-Sponsors

High Performance Computing for Nanotechnology (HPCNano)

International Technology Institute (ITI)



Hodges' Health


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