cBLAST (Center for Bioinformatics Learning Advancement and Systematics Training)

The code of life is embedded in the DNA sequences of any living organism, be it a life-threatening bacteria, a waste-utilizing friendly bacteria, our favorite food rice, a mangrove plant growing in the saline waters of the coast, a migratory bird or we humans ourselves. Therefore, to combat diseases caused by bacteria and to address the effects of disease on humans we need to be able to analyze DNA sequences. Similarly we need to understand the DNA sequence of any crop to make it more durable to rising sea levels, or to drought or mineral deficiency/toxicity. Again we could enrich ourselves by recycling our wastes to produce fertilizers and fuel by harnessing information from the DNA sequence of waste-utilizing bacteria.

With advances in technology, DNA sequences of many organisms started becoming available from the beginning of the 21st century. Currently DNA sequences of hundreds of organisms are available with more than 126 billion bases of data. Therefore, the biggest challenge facing scientists today is to make sense of this wealth of data. Sequence generation, and its subsequent storage, interpretation and analysis are dependent on the computer-which has given rise to the Science of Bioinformatics. DNA sequences give rise to RNA transcripts, which in turn produce proteins and proteins produce metabolic products. Along with the explosion of DNA sequence information therefore, there are tons of transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic data also needing computer management.

Understanding Bioinformatics holds the key to solving many of the problems that Bangladesh faces today as explained above. Moreover, it also offers the prospects of many free-lance jobs where trained bioinformaticians will analyze and make sense of other people’s data. In addition, one can perform research on protein structure and function by analyses of the huge amount of publicly available data. There is a great deal of interest and financial reward in being able to biologically identify and validate drug targets using computational tools. These highly specific drugs promise to have fewer side effects than many in use today. In short, Bioinformatics is not only important for academicians, it is also important for solutions to practical problems and be useful for the industries in Bangladesh.

Therefore, it is essential that we gather knowledge in Bioinformatics, or the Science which allows us to handle and analyze high throughput data, such as sequencing data, proteomic data as well as metabolomic data. Bioinformatics is however, a multidisciplinary Science requiring Knowledge of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Statistics and most importantly Computer Science or programming skills. Available expertise is scattered in various departments at the University of Dhaka, 1-2 other public universities as well as 1-2 private Universities or Institutions. Moreover, we have some young graduates who have developed commendable skills in Bioinformatics.

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