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Biology in a Digital World: On Bioinformatics, Genetics and Future Trends.

Most people look at computer science and biology as two different disciplines, which they are. Except, when you look at bioinformatics – a field that uses computer programming as part of its processes.

We look at it today.

Key Highlights

  • The Basics
  • Advancements in Bioinformatics
  • Applications of Bioinformatics
  • Top Ten Universities To Study Bioinformatics

What is Bioinformatics?

First things first – bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field of science that interprets biological data with the aid of other fields, such as – computer science, biology, information engineering, mathematics and statistics. It deals, primarily, with software tools and methods to understand extensive biological data.

This discipline acquires, analyses, stores, and merges biological data using advanced computing techniques (DNA sequences and amino acid Sequences). Bioinformatics, for instance, uses computer applications to solve biological questions on gene function, protein function, and predicting the protein’s three-dimensional shape.

Moreover, Bioinformatics analyses the close relationship between two different organisms by comparing their genomes and also explore what a specific region of DNA is responsible for. Think of bioinformatics as the linguistics part of genetics – the way people who study language and linguistics look at the patterns and structure of languages, similarly researchers in bioinformatics look for patterns within sequences of DNA or protein.

Milestone achieved; Systems biology.

Scientists today refer to the current advancement in bioinformatics as systems biology, something that is responsible for the most critical advancements in the science of human health and environmental sustainability. This unique approach can tackle all the complex biological questions and integrate genomics and proteomics to create a system view of all the biological entities. This process can discover new diseases, stratify the patient’s gene based on the unique profile and look for drugs and treatments. Work done easy!

A few applications of bioinformatics worth noting

Bioinformatics in climate change study– increasing levels of carbon dioxide emissions is one of the significant reasons for climate change. By studying the genomes of microbial organisms, bioinformatics can propose a new way to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. The US has already started exploring the genomes of microbes that use carbon dioxide as their sole carbon source, thanks to bioinformatics.

Gene therapy is the future of humankind – In most cases, the information extracted through genetic research is bulky. With bioinformatics, such bulky data can be very quickly analysed and made interpretable for gene therapy. Gene therapy is considered the future of bioinformatics as this approach can cure, treat or even prevent disease by altering a person’s gene.

Bioinformatics and veterinary sciences –With the help of bioinformatics, sequencing projects of farm animals and researching their biology have become very easy; this results in improving their health and therefore benefits in human nutrition.

Why is Bioinformatics essential?

Increasing private and public sector funding for bioinformatics and the growing application across industries have resulted in significant market growth in the past years. The bioinformatics market, which encompasses the academic, industry and service sector, was valued at USD10.88 Billion in 2019, and the Data Bridge Market Research predicts the bioinformatics market to gain a market growth of 21.09% and is projected to reach USD 45.40 billion by the end of 2027, which is enormous!

US Department of Labor projects the job growth for bioinformatics from 5to 9%  between 2016-2026, just in the US. Bioinformatics has also emerged as a highly remunerative career option, with the average remuneration hovering around USD 76,690 annually in 2017. In 2018 the remuneration for bioinformatics scientists increased about 3.8%, which roughly translates to approximately USD 79,590 annually.

Top 10 universities to study biological sciences

Here are the top 10 universities globally to study biological sciencesas listed in the QS World Ranking.

Serial No.UniversityCountry
1Harvard UniversityUnited States
2Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyUnited States
3University of CambridgeUnited Kingdom
4Stanford UniversityUnited States
5University of OxfordUnited Kingdom
6University of California BerkeleyUnited States
7ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologySwitzerland
8Yale UniversityUnited States
9University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)United States
10University of California, San Diego (UCSD)United States

1. MIT’s department of biology offers four undergraduate programs :

The department of biology also offers a PhD program and a master program in undergraduate studies.

2.Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’sdepartment of biostatics offers a variety of educational opportunities in bioinformatics.

The master’s and doctoral programs in biostatics are equipped with an updated syllabus in which the prime focus is given to genomic data analysis and statistical theory of high-dimensional data analysis.

Harvard University has also come up with a new Master program that focuses on computational biology and quantitative genetics, this particular course focuses mainly on the quantitative training and essential skills needed to tackle the challenges in large scale public health data.

3. University of Oxford offers an undergraduate degree in Biology and Biomedical sciences

  • The biology course in Oxford is an optional four-year course with a project after the third year or a three-year BA program that focuses on a cross-disciplinary approach. Students are given a choice to either study a general background encompassing a wide variety of topics or specialise in a detailed aspect of the animal, plant cells or ecology.
  • In a Biomedical science course, the student can choose a three year BA program that will award the student a degree in either Neuroscience or Cell Systems or the student can research in the fourth year, which will lead to the award of a Master degree.

Oxford University also offers an interdisciplinary Bioscience PhD program for four years. This program is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological science research council that provides training on Physical science or computational and mathematical science background.

Few universities/colleges that offer undergraduate degrees in bioinformatics are as follows:

Conclusion

With the increase in the amount of biological data and the need for eliminating false positives, bioinformatics has become an essential part of all genomic research projects. Researches say that in the future, bioinformatics will become a significant player in the understanding of biological processes and disease as it reduces all the complexities of analysing the biological data extracted.

With these extensive possibilities of bioinformatics,  we might never know when our inquisitive Dr. Henry Wu in the future decides to recreate dinosaurs from their genome data, taking us straight into a real-life sci-fi movie. Let the wait begin.

Date added
19.07.2021

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