Sponsors & Organizers

DIADEM Challenge and scientific conference

The idea for the DIADEM Challenge emerged from a scientific conference on neuronal circuit reconstruction held in 2007 at the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Organizers of that meeting – Alexander Borst of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Dmitri Chklovskii of the Janelia Farm Research Campus, Winfred Denk of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, and Kristen Harris of the University of Texas at Austin – focused on problems facing the reconstruction of complete circuit diagrams and potential strategies for resolving them.

The DIADEM Challenge was organized by the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and its Janelia Farm Research Campus and the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University. The Allen Institute and HHMI have established the prize.

The National Institutes of Health provided partial support for a scientific conference that was independent of – but held in conjunction with – the tournament phase of the DIADEM Challenge. Co-sponsoring NIH institutes were the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The co-sponsorship of the conference by these NIH institutes does not represent an endorsement of the DIADEM Challenge, specific software products that may emerge from the competition or the activities of the Allen Institute, HHMI, or the Krasnow Institute.

Sponsors of the DIADEM Challenge

The Allen Institute for Brain Science

The Allen Institute for Brain Science is an independent, non-profit medical research organization offering free online resources to advance brain research and enable a new understanding of brain diseases and disorders. By taking on far-reaching projects at the intersection of biology and technology, and making the data publicly available, the Institute aims to fuel innovation and discovery for countless researchers and organizations worldwide.

The Allen Institute was launched in 2003 with a seed contribution from philanthropist Paul G. Allen. Its inaugural project, the Allen Mouse Brain Atlas, provides researchers with a comprehensive resource mapping gene activity throughout the adult mouse brain. Expanding on that project and further charting the genome at work, the Allen Institute has created additional atlases, including the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas and the Allen Developing Mouse Brain Atlas. Looking ahead, the Institute is poised to map gene activity in the human brain with the forthcoming Allen Human Brain Atlas.

To learn more about the Allen Institute for Brain Science and its projects, please visit www.alleninstitute.org and www.brain-map.org.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization that ranks as one of the nation's largest philanthropies, plays a powerful role in advancing biomedical research and science education in the United States. HHMI's principal mission is conducting basic biomedical research, which it carries out in collaboration with more than 60 universities, medical centers, and other research institutions throughout the United States. Approximately 350 HHMI investigators, along with a scientific staff of more than 2,000, work at these institutions in Hughes laboratories. In a complementary program at HHMI's Janelia Farm Research Campus in Loudoun County, Virginia, leading scientists are pursuing long-term, high-risk, high-reward research in a campus specially designed to bring together researchers from disparate disciplines. HHMI researchers are widely recognized for their creativity and productivity: 124 HHMI investigators are members of the National Academy of Sciences, and there are currently 13 Nobel laureates within the investigator community. The Institute also has a philanthropic grants program that emphasizes initiatives with the power to transform graduate and undergraduate education in the life sciences.

To learn more about the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Janelia Farm Research Campus, visit www.hhmi.org.

Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University

The Krasnow Institute seeks to expand understanding of mind, brain, and intelligence by conducting research at the intersection of the separate fields of cognitive psychology, neurobiology, and the computer-driven study of artificial intelligence and complex adaptive systems. These separate disciplines increasingly overlap and promise progressively deeper insight into human thought processes. The Institute also examines how new insights from cognitive science research can be applied for human benefit in the areas of mental health, neurological disease, education, and computer design.

Named the number one national university to watch by U.S. News & World Report, George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in a range of academic fields. Located in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor near Washington, D.C., Mason prepares its students to succeed in the work force and meet the needs of the region and the world. With strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering and information technology, dance, organization psychology and health care, Mason students are routinely recognized with national and international scholarships. Mason professors conduct ground-breaking research in such areas as climate change, information technology, and the biosciences, and Mason’s Center for the Arts brings world-renowned artists, musicians, and actors to its stage.

To learn more about the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study and George Mason University, visit krasnow.gmu.edu and www.gmu.edu.

National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. Helping to lead the way toward important medical discoveries that improve people's health and save lives, NIH scientists investigate ways to prevent disease as well as the causes, treatments, and even cures for common and rare diseases. Composed of 27 Institutes and Centers, the NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world.

For over a century, the National Institutes of Health has played an important role in improving the health of the nation. The NIH traces its roots to 1887 with the creation of the Laboratory of Hygiene at the Marine Hospital in Staten Island, NY. The NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With the headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, the NIH has more than 18,000 employees on the main campus and at satellite sites across the country.

With the support of the American people, the NIH annually invests over $30.6 billion in medical research. More than 83 percent of the NIH's funding is awarded through almost 50,000 competitive grants to more than 325,000 researchers at over 3,000 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state and around the world. About 10 percent of the NIH's budget supports projects conducted by nearly 6,000 scientists in its own laboratories, most of which are on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

To learn more about the NIH, visit www.nih.gov.

Organizers of the DIADEM Challenge

Giorgio A. Ascoli, Ph.D.,
received a Ph.D. in biochemistry and neuroscience from the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, Italy, and continued his research at the National Institutes of Health, to investigate protein structure and binding in the nervous system. He moved to the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University in 1997, where he is University Professor in the Molecular Neuroscience Department. He is also founder and Director of the Center for Neural Informatics, Structure, and Plasticity, a multidisciplinary research group which includes psychologists, biologists, physicists, computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and physicians.

Ascoli is founding editor-in-chief of the journal Neuroinformatics and past president of the Potomac Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. Ascoli contributed to the establishment of the fields of computational neuroanatomy and neuroinformatics. His own laboratory investigates the relationship between brain structure, activity, and function from the cellular to the circuit level. In the long term, Ascoli seeks to create large-scale, anatomically plausible neural networks to model entire portions of a mammalian brain, such as the hippocampus. Ascoli’s interests also involve human memory and consciousness.

Karel Svoboda, Ph.D. , is a Group Leader at HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus. His lab is working on the structure, function and plasticity of neocortical circuits, mostly in the context of somatosensation. He is also interested in the development of optical, physiological and molecular methods for neuroscience. Svoboda received a BA in physics from Cornell University and a PhD in Biophysics from Harvard University. For his thesis work he measured the molecular movements and forces of individual kinesin molecules, a molecular motor common to all eukaryotic cells. His postdoctoral work focused on synaptic and dendritic function in the cortex. From 1997 until 2006 he was a Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and an HHMI Investigator.

Co-Organizer of the Scientific Conference

Yuan Liu, Ph.D., received her bachelors and masters degrees in neurophysiology from Peking University in the People’s Republic of China, and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Biocenter at University of Basel in Switzerland. During her research career, Liu’s major interests focused on presynaptic channels, postsynaptic receptors, mechanisms of synaptic transmission, plasticity, and synaptogenesis. In 1995, Liu joined the NIH as an extramural program official. She currently is the Chief of Office of International Activities at NINDS, and also Program Director for Computational Neuroscience and Neuroinformatics. During her 14 year tenure at the NIH, she organized and chaired many scientific conferences and workshops. She also served as the NINDS representative on many inter-governmental agency, and trans-NIH committees including the NIH Roadmap and Neuroscience Blueprint, and developed many initiatives including the NIH-NSF Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS), which promotes computational modeling of normal and abnormal brain structure and function.