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Bioinformatics: Players; Problems; and Processes in Computational Biology (Technical Insights)
Deliverable Type: Technical Insights Reports
Date Published: 8 Aug 2002
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Report Overview
Over the last few years, as genomes have been sequenced and proteins have been studied with renewed enthusiasm, researchers in the life sciences and pharmaceuticals development have been inundated with massive quantities of data. With the amount of data rapidly approaching a petabyte (over a quadrillion bytes), the question becomes, what do you do with it all once you have it stored in various computers? The answer: use those same computers to manage, retrieve, organize, compare, and integrate the data. In a word: bioinformatics.

With the goal of the new field of proteomics being to study the function and interactions of every protein in every type of cell, good bioinformatics tools have become even more essential. Researchers anticipate that the amount of data generated by these studies will soon exceed the capacity of even the best supercomputers currently available. Thus the task becomes almost like that of constructing a living organism. You need processes (including, software algorithms) that can organize information into coherent, accessible structures. Just as a living cell is more than a simple bag of fluids, proteins, and lipids, the whole of a good informatics system will be greater than the sum of its parts.

Pharmaceutical Applications

Mining the large databases of protein structures and biological activity that have now been accumulated is an increasingly important source of drug leads. Bioinformatics specialists, or computational biochemists, are experts in sophisticated computational algorithms and statistical techniques that help them build, subset, and focus huge libraries of potential lead compounds to produce better drug leads.

High-throughput genomics and proteomics systems generate several types of data, including gene sequence, gene expression, gene polymorphism (different forms of the same gene), and protein structure data, as well as functional data (active sites of enzymes, receptor-binding sites, and others). Combining these data sets will enable researchers to better identify and characterize potential drug targets, disease susceptibility, drug toxicity and efficacy, as well as individual responses to medication.

It has been calculated that bioinformatics will raise the hundreds of targets (human enzymes, receptors, and ion channels) that drug companies now work with by at least an order of magnitude. Sorting out the complicated molecular pathways that lead to disease will be more methodical with bioinformatics. If a big pharma company gets two or three targets that yield marketable drugs from a collaboration, it will be worthwhile.

Bioinformatics Systems

The increasing IT (information technology) infrastructure needs of biotech companies require the following: accessible databases, analytical applications in order to sort and organize the data, middleware that links information from various separate databases, and systems to store and distribute the information to researchers. These systems are described below and in more detail in this report.

Technical Insights Reports

This Technical Insights report separates the good news from the mundane by providing the following:
  • A detailed overview of technological advances in development laboratories
  • Identification of key companies and developers and estimates of timelines for commercializing technology
  • Definitions of key markets and applications
  • Reporting on technology drivers as well as obstacles in the way of commercial success
  • A detailed list of key contacts in the field, including names, titles, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and URLs

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