bioinformatics today

Bioinformaticians develop algorithms and data pipelines to efficiently analyze and process huge amounts of biological data. Bioinformatics is a discipline which aims to bridge the gap between the emerging fields of information technology and biology. This requires substantial knowledge in both fields: information technology and biology. Information technology encompasses software project engineering, data base design, mathematics, etc. Biology includes disciplines such as molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, biophysics, immunology, etc.

Classically, one differentiates between bioinformatics and computational biology [1]. Computational biology mainly focusses on the use or adaption of software with the major aim of deducing novel biological insights while bioinformatics usually relies on information technology, i.e. scientists with a strong background in information technology apply their methods to biological challenges. In practice, however, this border is usually diffuse and constantly changing.

The fields of bioinformatics and computational biology are broad and include (with no claim to be complete) [2]:

  • Sequencing and Sequence Analysis
  • Macromolecular Structure, Dynamics and Function
  • Mutations, Variations, and Population Genomics
  • Evolution, Phylogeny, and Comparative Genomics
  • Protein Interactions, Molecular Networks, and Proteomics
  • Regulation, Pathways, and Systems Biology
  • Bioimaging, Spatio-temporal Modeling and Data Visualization
  • Databases, Ontologies, and Text Mining
  • Bioinformatics of Health and Disease, Biomarkers and Personalized Medicine

[1] "NIH working definition of bioinformatics and computational biology". Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative. 2000. http://www.bisti.nih.gov/docs/compubiodef.pdf (last visited 2012-08-23)

[2] Subdisciplines according to the nomenclature of the European Conference on Computational Biology 2012