Writes the Economist:

In life-sciences establishments around the world, the laboratory rat is giving way to the computer mouse – as computing joins forces with biology to create a market that is expected to be worth nearly $40 billion within three years.

Welcome to the world of bioinformaticsa branch of computing concerned with the acquisition, storage and analysis of biological data. Once an obscure part of computer science, bioinformatics has become a linchpin of biotechnology’s progress. In the struggle for speed and agility, bioinformatics offers unparalleled efficiency through mathematical modelling. In the quest for new drugs, it promises new ways to look at biology through data mining. And it is the only practical way of making sense of the ensuing deluge of data.

The big opportunity is in data mining, according to the article.

First pplied in banking, data mining uses a variety of algorithms to sift through storehouses of data in search of noisy patterns and relationships among the different silos of information. The promise for bioinformatics is that public genome data, mixed with proprietary sequence data, clinical data from previous drug efforts and other stores of information, could unearth clues about possible candidates for future drugs.

Unlike banking, bioinformatics offers big challenges for data mining because of the greater complexity of the information and processes. This is where modelling and visualisation techniques should come in, to simulate the operations of various biological functions and to predict the effect of stimuli on a cell or organ. Computer modelling allows researchers to test hunches fast, and offers a starting-point for further research using other methods such as X-ray crystallography or spectroscopy. It also means that negative responses come sooner, reducing the time wasted on unworkable target drugs.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.