The Future of Bioinformatics
Nov. 5, 2000
This article originally appeared in Bioscan, the newsletter of the Toronto Biotechnology Initiative in the Fall of 1999. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission.
Bioinformatics is the science of “understanding living systems through computation,” according to Dr. Jamie Cuticchia of the Hospital for Sick Children’s supercomputing facility. “But hearing someone talk about it is like being in a car crash. First, you’re dazed and confused, then angered, then happy to just get up and walk away.” Dr. Cuttichia was the first of two presenters at TBI’s first breakfast meeting of the season. He was followed by Dr. Shane Climie of Ocata Proteomics, a nascent company run out of Mount Sinai Hospital.
Both men presented compelling examples of the challenges facing bioinformatics professionals, especially in light of recent and projected explosions in the quantity of biological data available to researchers. “More scientific data will be released this year than has ever been released before in the history of the world,” Dr. Cuticchia proclaimed, underlining the preponderant role of information technology in mediating the interplay between data and investigator. He also spoke of how Moore’s Law, the electronic paradigm in which transistor evolution constantly outstrips the complexity of society’s computational needs, will imminently be violated by astounding increases in available biological data in need of processing.
Ocata Proteomics’ focus on proteome structure, referred to by Dr. Climie as “the ultimate realization of the genetic sequence,” is a prime example of the type of hurdle faced by the bioinformatician, and indicative of the science’s growing role in the $45 billion global pharmaceutical R&D industry.
“Drug discovery IS bioinformatics,” confirmed Dr. Cuttichia, showing how his science is critical in three critical phases of pharmaceutical research: target identification through linkage mapping, screening via combinational chemistry, and clinical trials through patient selection.
The true power of bioinformatics is yet to be tapped, as developments in complete genome mapping and in individualized medicine via pharmacogenomics are just around the corner.
Ray Deonandan’s personal website may be found at www.deonandan.com.