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{bio,medical} informatics

Monday, June 05, 2000

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BBC Celera ready for genome announcement
"The US company racing to produce the first "working draft" of the human genome is understood to have finished its task.

Over the past few weeks, powerful computers at Celera Genomics have been trying to determine the exact order of the 3bn or so individual chemical building blocks, or bases, that make up our genetic code.

A source has informed BBC News Online that this goal was finally achieved at the weekend. An official announcement is expected any day from the company - perhaps as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday."
BusinessWeek The Genome Gold Rush
"But for all the drama behind the unveiling of humanity's genetic code, the race marks a beginning, not an end. In fact, the pharmaceutical and biotech industries are already drowning in a flood of genetic information, says Mihael Polymeropolous, vice-president for pharmacogenetics at Novartis. ''That's why this race for me is a little silly,'' he says. ''The real race is who will develop the tools to analyze the genome first.''"

"Another consequence of this flood of information is that the computer has become one of the most important tools in biology. Consider these experiments. You want to measure how each of tens of thousands of drugs affects every one of humanity's 34,000 to 120,000 genes and its 1 million proteins. Or you want to compare the sequences of thousands of unknown proteins with the 3 billion bits of DNA in the human genome. In each case, the amount of data to analyze is mind-boggling. ''We have reached a point where processing information is one of the major bottlenecks,'' says Sharon L. Nunes, senior researcher at the computational biology center at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center.

Once the information problem has been solved, scientists will be left with a wealth of possibilities. Having the full human genome sequence and all these new tools ''will keep researchers busy for a long time,'' says Vincent Dauciunas, head of strategic planning in the chemical analysis group at toolmaker Agilent. ''I call it the Full-Employment Act for the millennium.''"

[ rhetoric ]

Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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