10 July 2015
A Garvan / CSIRO team has won first prize in the 2015 NSW iAwards, which were presented on 7 July. The iAward recognises the achievements of home-grown Australian innovators at the cutting edge of technology innovation. The Garvan / CSIRO team developed Aquaria, a new web application designed to provide biologists with a simplified process for using 3D structures to obtain insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying protein function.
Aquaria won first prize in the Research and Development category for the 2015 New South Wales iAwards despite facing strong competition. Next month, the Aquaria team will go on to the national finals.
The Aquaria project represents around ten person-years of collaborative work at CSIRO and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, as well as international partners in Munich, Germany. The highly interdisciplinary team of experts in software architecture, graphics design, user experience design, bioinformatics and structural biology team was led by Dr Seán O’Donoghue, an OCE Science Leader at CSIRO and senior scientist at Garvan. Kenneth Sabir, the technical architect of Aquaria at Garvan is a former software engineer at IBM, and Bell Labs. Other members of the team include Christian Stolte, Dr Julian Heinrich, Dr Fabian Buske, and Vivian Ho.
Millions of protein structural models have been produced over the decades since the structure of DNA was resolved, but few biologists take advantage of them because of the complexity of analysis for non-experts. Aquaria was developed to simplify discovery and insight from protein structures. This new web resource has broad utility across many areas of biological research and education; at its core is a public database that maps all well-known protein sequences to all known atomic-resolution 3D structures of proteins.
This database has an unprecedented depth of coverage; it contains 46 million sequence-to-structure alignments, which more than doubles the 21 million previously available in all other public resources combined, thus substantially increasing the worldwide knowledge about protein 3D structures. A state-of-the-art user interface provides unprecedented ease-of-use, defining a new standard in the field of computational structural biology.
Team leader Sean O’Donoghue said “We are thrilled to receive this iAward, which confirms Sydney as a bioinformatics powerhouse. Our tool has already been widely used by thousands of scientists around the world, and this award now brings us to the attention of our peers in other industries in Australia.”