History of Bioinformatics: a summary

Article written by CEMP's team

The term Bioinformatics sounds futuristic. And, in fact, it is. This discipline, situated at the intersection between Biology and Computational Sciences, is projected to become the potential solution to multiple disorders, for which medicines will be able to be created once the gene that produces them is identified. However, the use of computers to process biological data has a recent past, one that is also fascinating. In this article, we’ll go deep into the history of bioinformatics for you to know more about this professional pathway that is brimming with possibilities.


The history of Bioinformatics: it all started with a spiral

The term Bioinformatics refers to the analysis of biological information by using tools belonging to computing and math. It’s a scientific field for which numerous and huge discoveries are probably yet to be developed, but its origin took place with a discovery that is difficult to compete with: the double helix in DNA.

Most scientific publications began writing the history of Bioinformatics when this discovery took place. It was born out of the collaboration of a biologist and a physicist, Watson and Crick, in 1953, and the previous research undertaken by Rosalind Franklin at the Biophysics Unit at King’s College Research Council.

Finding out about the helical shape of our genetic information represented a huge step in being able to solve many questions about the genome. Informatic tools started arising in order to process the huge volumes of information that were appearing from then, and algorithms were created in order to investigate protein characteristics, their regulation and the ins and outs of embryonic development and metabolic pathways in biochemistry.


The future that overtook the Internet

The birth of the Internet is officially considered to have been in 1983, when the United States Defense Department first used the TCP/IP protocol in their ARPANET network, a connection between two computers belonging to different entities.

Today, we imagine this first WAN network to be crucial in the treatment of information. However, the history of Bioinformatics goes back a few more years before this discovery.

More than two decades before that, in 1960, scientists found themselves at a crossroads. They had a huge collection of data regarding protein chemistry, but in order to find the answers they were looking for they needed to expand their work beyond the limits of their fields. This need led them to use Informatics and Mathematical Sciences to search for patterns in biological information.


Frederick Sanger, shooting the starting pistol

In 1955, British biochemist Frederick Sanger made a discovery that would lead the scientific community to be able to discern everything that DNA and RNA had to tell us. It was the sequence of insulin, which led other professionals to develop their own methods to sequence molecules.

The information he obtained started building up on databases and algorithms started being developed to generate comparative studies. At this point, Margaret Oakley Dayhoff stands out in the brief history of informatics. In 1965, this scientist created the Atlas of Protein Sequences, a catalog with the protein sequences that had been discovered up until that point and which was periodically reviewed in order to keep it updated.

This document became the forerunner to the Protein Sequence Database, a database in a domestic computer (as the Internet didn’t exist yet) through which other scientists could access via their telephones.

When the Internet was developed, the history of Bioinformatics was filled with collaborations, data-processing software options and algorithms such as the Smith-Waterman algorithm or Pearson and Lipman’s FASTA.


The golden decades of the 80s and 90s

The 80s and 90s were characterized by the birth of databases centered around genes and proteins, such as the GenBank. The Protein Identification Resource (PIR) (which today is UniProt) was born at the time, a great resource to identify and interpret proteins, which could be accessed by scientists online.

At the same time, the World Wide Web was born thanks to Tim Berners-Lee. The foundations for the Internet were already settled and the history of Bioinformatics started being outlined as unstoppable.


The recent years in the history of Bioinformatics

In the 21st century, the history of Bioinformatics has reached important achievements such as the complete sequencing of the human genome. The mapping of the proteome was also initiated, with the first draft published by UniProt in 2008.

Today, Bioinformatics is used in different fields such as Agriculture, Pharmacy or Medicine. The discipline is being applied to research around rare diseases, to try to facilitate diagnostics for patients suffering from them. The treatment of biological data could as well be key for finding a solution for cancer, as genetics are a key piece in their development.


The history of bioinformatics: what will the future look like?

The history of bioinformatics will be written across many different fields. Specialists point towards the big role that research around infectious diseases will play, both for treating them as well as for understanding their evolution and their transmission between animals and human beings.

The study of genes will also evolve into finding information to design new therapies. Besides, we’ll be able to forecast the development of certain disorders and what treatments will be able to work with it.

The pharma industry is also experimenting with creating personalized treatments according to each patient’s genetic characteristics. Alterations in embryonic development will be identified, and more successful agro-food productions achieved.

How will this be possible? Thanks to the analysis of soil microorganisms, professionals will be able to predict changes that plants might experiment and manage them as they wish.


Master’s degree in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics

In order to be able to continue advancing, the history of Bioinformatics requires specialized professionals. The productive fabric demands experts in this field which, because it’s still developing, is still seeing a shortage of professionals.

Knowledge in Biochemistry, Math and computational languages are crucial for the advancement of this field. Today, a number of specific training is available that covers all these fields, such as our Master’s Degree in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics.

Through this program, you’ll learn Python programming, Bacteriology and Molecular Biology thanks to a team of experts and up to 300 hours of practical experience at a company. When you’re finished with the course, you’ll be ready to join a research team and contribute through your work to improve any of this field’s areas.

Fill in the form and get all the information you need for our Master’s degree. Enrollment space is limited, so make sure you are one step ahead!

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