April 25, 2001
Computers + Biology = Bioinformatics O'Reilly Releases First in a Line of Bioinformatics Books
Sebastopol, CA--By the end of 2003, the information compiled from the
human genome project is expected to be in public internet-accessible
databases. Researchers say this may spark a revolution in medicine,
giving scientists and physicians the material they need to predict,
prevent, and treat disease. We have vast volumes of DNA sequence data
at our fingertips. But how do we figure out which parts of that DNA
control the various chemical processes of life? We know the function
and structure of some proteins, but how do we determine the function of
new proteins? And how do we predict what a protein will look like,
based on knowledge of its sequence?
The answer lies in Bioinformatics--the application of computational and
analytical methods to biological problems. Bioinformatics is a rapidly
evolving scientific discipline. Genome sequencing projects are
producing vast amounts of biological data for many different organisms,
and, increasingly, storing these data in public databases. Such
biological databases are growing exponentially, along with the
biological literature. It's impossible for even the most zealous
researcher to stay on top of necessary information in the field without
the aid of computer-based tools. Bioinformatics is all about building
To learn more about the latest trends and research in this field, don't miss
the O'Reilly Bioinformatics
Technology Conference January 28-31, 2002, in Tuscon, Arizona.
"In a research environment, where many biologists are still asking
basic questions, such as 'What's the best way to organize my data files
on the computer?,' and with a lot of computer professionals probably
thinking about protein mainly as a component of lunch, 'What is
bioinformatics?' is a very valid question," says Cynthia Gibas,
coauthor of the just-released
Bioinformatics Computer Skills (O'Reilly, US $34.95). "The glib answer
runs something like this: 'Bioinformatics is the intersection of information
technology and biology.'"
"But what does that really mean? Those answers are barely answers--they
leave open a lot of questions. 'Information technology' and 'data
mining' don't really mean a whole lot to a biologist, and don't convey
a sense of the possibilities that computers create for researchers,"
she explains. "And from the opposite perspective, 'biology' doesn't
mean a whole lot to a computer professional. What is it biologists do?
What do they want to find out? How do they go about finding it out? And
finally, what are the benefits of applying information technology to
biological research, and why is bioinformatics such a hot area as a
Bioinformatics Computer Skills was written to help
biologists, researchers, and students develop a structured approach to
biological data and the computer tools they'll need to analyze it.
"Bioinformatics is a natural fit for O'Reilly. It's a fascinating (and
practical) application of many of the technology areas in which we
already publish, such as Perl, Python, Java, XML, and database
technologies," says Lorrie LeJeune, O'Reilly's Bioinformatics Editor.
"Bioinformatics combines biology and computer science--two areas that
have not had lots of overlap until the Human Genome Project, gene
sequencing, and genome analysis became popular terms. There's a lot of
information pain, and there's very little material aimed at biologists
who are struggling to understanding and use computer tools."
Developing Bioinformatics Computer Skills covers the Unix file
system, building tools and databases for bioinformatics, computational
approaches to biological problems, an introduction to Perl for
bioinformatics, data mining, data visualization, and tips for tailoring
data analysis software to individual research needs.
Bioinformatics Computer Skills
Cynthia Gibas & Per Jambeck
ISBN 1-56592-664-1, 442 pages, $34.95
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