Northrop to build pathogen database

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Officials from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded Northrop Grumman Corp. a five-year, $16.9 million contract to develop a database to centralize and integrate data for six potential bioterrorism agents.

The company will develop a Web-based database — called BioHealthBase — to collect and analyze genomic and related data and bibliographic information for those six pathogens, which pose significant public health threats. Genomics is the study of how an organism's genes are arranged and interact.

The six pathogens that will be studied include Giardia lamblia parasite; Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) bacteria; influenza (flu) virus; Entamoeba histolytica parasite; microsporidia parasites; and Ricinus communis (castor bean) plant.

"Northrop Grumman will provide a solid solution that combines the methods of science and leading-edge information technology into a solid bioinformatics approach," Michele Kang, vice president of health solutions for Northrop Grumman IT's Federal Enterprise Solutions business unit, said in a press release. "The goal for the BioHealthBase is to support both biodefense and public health."

The pathogens represent each of the three major classifications of microorganisms — bacteria, viruses and parasites — according to a company press release. Other microorganisms can be added to the database in the future.

The Herndon, Va.-based company will also provide IT tools and a Web site to access large amounts of genomic and related data to help develop vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics as well as provide comparative analysis of genomes.

Officials from the company's Rockville, Md., facility and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas will conduct the work, and will be assisted by Vecna Technologies Inc. in College Park, Md., and American Medical-Marketing and Analytical Research (AMAR) International Inc., in Fairfax, Va.

NIAID, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded eight contracts totaling nearly $90 million to help the scientific community get access to data about disease-causing organisms.

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