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As we approached the holiday season in Colombia, we had already received one of the biggest gifts on our wish-list: on November 12, the government of Colombia officially committed to the establishment of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in the city of Manizales, an important academic hub located in west-central Colombia. The Center is an ambitious project that aims to provide scientific and technical support to businesses, public organizations, universities, and research centers throughout Colombia. It will offer much-needed technology for processing and storing data, and will strengthen the country's research capacity by providing computational capability to other centers of excellence in Colombia and, potentially, across Latin America.
The government's action confirmed the Center as a legal entity, which enables it to receive funding and to initiate the selection of the final site and begin the planning, design, and building of its infrastructure. The venture brings together government and private parties including the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (known by its Spanish initials, MINTIC) and the Administrative Department of Science, Technology, and Innovation (better known as Colciencias) from the government side; and Microsoft Colombia, Microsoft Research, and a group of prestigious universities including the University of Caldas, the Autonomous University of Manizales, the University of Manizales, Quindío University, the University of Technology of Pereira, and Tolima University.
Speaking at the commitment announcement, ICT Minister Diego Molano Vega underscored the significance of the Center's establishment: "This is an important step for the government, the consolidation of a project that we believe allows Colombia to position itself as a country that enhances the use of information technology in such strategic areas as biotechnology and biodiversity."1
With a government investment of 4.6 million Colombian pesos (US$2.5 million) for the first year, and a commitment to comparable funding for each of the next two years, the Center is well positioned to embark on its first major project. Since its main goals include research in biology and computer science, the Center intends to focus on Colombian biodiversity, with the goal of creating synergies and knowledge-sharing among researchers at universities, government agencies, and private industry.
Microsoft has been involved in the Center since its very beginning, helping to conceptualize the project with MINTIC, Colciencias, and a group of international experts. Microsoft Research has offered to support the Center in designing its technical architecture and to provide bioinformatics research tools based on high-performance computing (HPC) and the cloud.
Orlando Ayala, corporate vice president and chairman of emerging markets at Microsoft, said that "the creation of this Center is a great opportunity for the country to generate research and scientific development." Ayala emphasized Microsoft's commitment to the biodiversity research project, which will, he noted, "establish a direct bridge between Microsoft Research and the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology."1
Microsoft External Research's involvement in this project aligns perfectly with the group's charter to harness the power of science and technology by fostering collaboration worldwide among academia, industry, and governments.
—Jaime Puente, Director, Microsoft External Research, a division of Microsoft Research
1. "Nace primer Centro de Bioinformática y Biología Computacional," Dinero.com, accessed December 20, 2010. Machine translated as "Born first Center for Bioinformatics and computational biology."