Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researcher awarded funding from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative for Open

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Heng Li, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Computational Biology in the Department of Data Sciences, will receive funding from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to support open source software projects that are essential to biomedical research. CZI’s Essential Open Source Software for Science program, announced $5 million in funding for these grants to support software maintenance, growth, development, and community engagement for over 40 critical open source tools.

Li’s project, Continuous Improvement to Essential High-Throughput Bio-Sequence Aligners, will maintain the Burrows-Wheeler Aligner (BWA), a software package for mapping DNA sequence data against a large reference genome, such as the human genome. BWA specifically targets low-divergent sequences — genes from a species closely related to the reference genome — in order to quickly analyze variation. This tool helps researchers identify genetic mutations that may be linked to cancer and other diseases. The CZI award facilitates improvements to the performance and robustness of BWA and the launch of its next major version, BWA-MEM2.

Open source software is crucial to modern scientific research, advancing biology and medicine while providing reproducibility and transparency. Yet even the most widely-used research software often lacks dedicated funding.

“Open source software accelerates the work scientists carry out each day, whether it’s searching a genome sequence for a disease gene, tracking a disease outbreak, or counting cells in a microscope image,” said CZI Head of Science Cori Bargmann. “Scientists are only as good as their tools, and we’re thrilled to support open source projects that will benefit the entire scientific community and help every scientist be a better scientist.”

The 32 selected proposals include 42 total open source projects. Projects include tools for visualizing, analyzing, and managing data for research areas such as genomics, structural biology, cell biology, neuroscience, and more. View the full list of grantees.

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