Bioinformatics is a subdiscipline of biology and computer science concerned with the acquisition, storage, analysis, and dissemination of biological data, most often DNA and amino acid sequences. Bioinformatics uses computer programs for a variety of applications, including determining gene and protein functions, establishing evolutionary relationships, and predicting the three-dimensional shapes of proteins.
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Bioinformatics is a field of computational science that has to do with the analysis of sequences of biological molecules. [It] usually refers to genes, DNA, RNA, or protein, and is particularly useful in comparing genes and other sequences in proteins and other sequences within an organism or between organisms, looking at evolutionary relationships between organisms, and using the patterns that exist across DNA and protein sequences to figure out what their function is. You can think about bioinformatics as essentially the linguistics part of genetics. That is, the linguistics people are looking at patterns in language, and that's what bioinformatics people do--looking for patterns within sequences of DNA or protein.
Christopher P. Austin, M.D.
Director, NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC); Senior Advisor for Translational Research, Office of the Director
Dr. Austin's research focuses on development of reagents and technologies to translate genome sequence into functional insights. As director of the NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC), part of a network of screening centers that produce chemical probes for use in biological research and drug development, Dr. Austin is spearheading a chemical genomics program that brings the power of small-molecule chemistry and informatics to the elucidation of gene function. Just as the Human Genome Project accelerated gene identification, this initiative promises to speed discoveries on gene function and lead to the development of new therapies for human disease.