National Center for Biotechnology Information
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The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is part of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM), a branch of the National Institutes of Health. The NCBI is located in Bethesda, Maryland and was founded in 1988 through legislation sponsored by Senator Claude Pepper.
The NCBI houses a series of databases relevant to biotechnology and biomedicine. Major databases include GenBank for DNA sequences and PubMed, a bibliographic database for the biomedical literature. Other databases include the NCBI Epigenomics database. All these databases are available online through the Entrez search engine.
NCBI is directed by David Lipman, one of the original authors of the BLAST sequence alignment program and a widely respected figure in bioinformatics. He also leads an intramural research program, including groups led by Stephen Altschul (another BLAST co-author), David Landsman, Eugene Koonin (a prolific author on comparative genomics), John Wilbur, Teresa Przytycka, and Zhiyong Lu.
NCBI has had responsibility for making available the GenBank DNA sequence database since 1992. GenBank coordinates with individual laboratories and other sequence databases such as those of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the DNA Data Bank of Japan (DDBJ).
Since 1992, NCBI has grown to provide other databases in addition to GenBank. NCBI provides Gene, Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man, the Molecular Modeling Database (3D protein structures), dbSNP (a database of single-nucleotide polymorphisms), the Reference Sequence Collection, a map of the human genome, and a taxonomy browser, and coordinates with the National Cancer Institute to provide the Cancer Genome Anatomy Project. The NCBI assigns a unique identifier (taxonomy ID number) to each species of organism.
The NCBI has software tools that are available by WWW browsing or by FTP. For example, BLAST is a sequence similarity searching program. BLAST can do sequence comparisons against the GenBank DNA database in less than 15 seconds.
The NCBI Bookshelf is a collection of freely available, downloadable, on-line versions of selected biomedical books. The Bookshelf covers a wide range of topics including molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, microbiology, disease states from a molecular and cellular point of view, research methods, and virology. Some of the books are online versions of previously published books, while others, such as Coffee Break, are written and edited by NCBI staff. The Bookshelf is a complement to the Entrez PubMed repository of peer-reviewed publication abstracts in that Bookshelf contents provide established perspectives on evolving areas of study and a context in which many disparate individual pieces of reported research can be organized.
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