Mission, Aims, & History

AR-BIC’s Mission

The Arkansas Bioinformatics Consortium (AR-BIC) is a state-centric scientific community. Its mission is to develop, leverage, and enhance bioinformatics expertise and resources to solve public health challenges. The goals of AR-BIC include:

  1. Strengthening Arkansas’ ability to compete at national and international levels for research funding
  2. Enabling and facilitating collaboration for team science opportunities
  3. Enhancing education, training, and university curricula in the bioinformatics field
  4. Expanding the state’s economic growth and job opportunities
AR-BIC 2022 conference

AR-BIC’s Specific Aims

  1. Thoroughly understand the resources in Arkansas available for bioinformatics and its associated needs, e.g., access to high-speed computing capability and use of computational tools.
  2. Harness and grow those capabilities, especially those that are relevant to the needs of NCTR and FDA.
  3. Stimulate interest and capability across Arkansas in bioinformatics to produce a larger cadre of expertise.
  4. Seek local, national, and international data that can produce results needed by FDA and others, e.g., reviewing decades of genomic/treatment data on myeloma patients at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
  5. Coordinate the Arkansas bioinformatics ecosystem so it becomes a force larger than the sum of its parts.
  6. Encourage students and faculty to develop new models and techniques to be used in bioinformatics and related fields.
  7. Improve inter-institutional communication, including developing standardized bioinformatics curricula and more universal course acceptance.

AR-BIC was founded to foster a collaborative, Arkansas-based community in bioinformatics research and education among federal and academic institutions. Over the past few years, AR-BIC has gained tremendous momentum and popularity among the Arkansas scientific research community, which is evident by the increased number of participants each year. The AR-BIC annual meeting has become the largest Arkansas bioinformatics gathering and provides a platform for networking, collaborating, and sharing ideas.

Our History

In August 2011, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing a framework for cooperation between FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) and Arkansas research universities and institutions. Enormous progress has been made under the MOU, including the formation of the Arkansas Bioinformatics Consortium (AR-BIC).

In 2013, the Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) invited each Arkansas university chief research officer to a listening session of the NCTR director and the NCTR division directors describing their research programs. The FDA shared that its ability to protect public health is directly related to its ability to access and utilize the latest scientific data. Increased proficiency in collecting, presenting, validating, understanding, and drawing quantitative inference from the massive volume of new scientific results is necessary for success in that effort. The complexity involved clearly required continued development of new tools within the realm of computational technology. Collectively, the group identified bioinformatics as the best opportunity for collaboration. Following that meeting, each university research director identified appropriate staff for subsequent discussions. ARA’s five research university partners, along with the former Arkansas Science and Technology Authority (ASTA), the function of which now resides within the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), ARA, and the U.S. FDA National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) formed the Arkansas Bioinformatics Consortium (AR-BIC). In the beginning, ARA proposed to hold a series of workshops to advance bioinformatics capabilities. AR-BIC has evolved into an annual conference, gathering upwards of 300 attendees, that has been held continually since 2015.

AR-BIC understands that the size and complexity of the issues tackled with bioinformatics requires as many innovative minds as possible. Accordingly, the conferences incorporate students and provide incentives for their participation. AR-BIC provides valuable opportunities for students to access interesting data sets and solve real-world problems.