It’s no secret the world is creating an unprecedented amount of data.
In fact, it’s estimated that in 2020, we created 1.7 MB of data every second. But producing endless data won’t do us much good unless we analyze it in an intelligent and meaningful way, especially when it comes to biological, genetic and health-related information.
Enter bioinformatics. From personalizing cancer treatments and detecting COVID variants, to making agriculture more sustainable and improving forest productivity, bioinformatics plays a vital role.
Bioinformatics, the study of large amounts of biological information, is a discipline that prides itself on problem solving. And the application of genomics technologies, of which bioinformatics constitutes the core, helps solve real-world problems in multiple sectors, including health and agriculture, the two focus areas for the Graduate Certificate of Bioinformatics.
As it turns out, the two University of Lethbridge professors who designed the certificate program know a thing or two about using bioinformatics in the real world – not just in a classroom.
One of those professors is Dr. Angeliki Pantazi, whose research focuses on the interpretation of genomic data from cancer patients to implement precision medicine in routine oncology. Because cancer is a disease of the genome, treatment can be adjusted accordingly, based on the DNA changes identified in a patient’s tumor.
“This genome-drug matching is a laborious process, which still includes plenty of time-consuming manual work from expert data curators,” Dr. Pantazi says. “I’m working on novel ways to automate genomic data interpretation to decrease the turnaround time of delivering reports to oncologists and patients.”
Dr. Athan Zovoilis’s lab, on the other hand, uses genomics (the reading of the genetic code) along with bioinformatics to better understand the function of the human brain in a bid to tackle the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
COVID Code Breakers
Recently, bioinformatics played an important role in detecting COVID-19 variants.
“Compared to traditional lab testing methods, the widespread use of genomics and bioinformatics to detect COVID-19 variants has accelerated dramatically the disease diagnosis and epidemic surveillance, meaning that we can identify infected people faster and more accurately while we can easily trace the spread of the virus around the globe,” Dr. Pantazi says.
“The use of bioinformatics during the pandemic has completely reshaped the field of microbiology, and we anticipate future medical microbiologists using more bioinformatics to diagnose any type of infectious disease beyond COVID-19.”
Because bioinformatics utilizes the latest database techniques along with mathematical algorithms to discover real-world solutions, the list of life sciences and biotechnology problems the discipline can examine is potentially endless.
In addition to disease detection, bioinformatics plays an integral role in vaccine and drug discovery and design, protein analysis, biomolecular structure, cell metabolism and functional genomics.
Other, non-medical sectors in which bioinformatics helps solve complex problems include forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, energy, mining, and the environment.
Join our webinar November 5th to learn more!
Graduate Certificate in Bioinformatics at a glance:
- Application deadline: December 1
- Intake: Spring semester
- Duration: Six-months
- Coursework (no thesis)
- Practicum included: No
- Supervisor required: No
- Delivery: In-person on the main (Lethbridge) campus