Bioinformatics is a relatively new branch of biology that has emerged as a result of the genomic revolution and the great need for storage and analysis of genomic sequences and ancillary data. In its broadest context, bioinformatics includes all computational approaches for studying biologically meaningful data. As such, it includes methods for electronically assembling data, creating and searching local and online databases, and retrieving meaningful data sets. It also includes the development and automation of analytical methods, leading to the development of new computer software for biological discovery. Since meeting the initial needs of the genomic revolution, the scope of bioinformatics has greatly expanded to include a wide variety of data types, such as may be generated by clinical studies, gene expression assays, studies of metabolism and protein structure, evolutionary science, ecological observation, and census surveys.
Researchers at Bigelow Laboratory (McClellan) increasingly seek to utilize bioinformatics approaches to integrate their diverse interests, while increasing productivity and the biological value of their discoveries. Currently, our bioinformatics program emphasizes the development of methods for the study of protein adaptation, adaptations that may be expected as organisms respond to changes in their environment. Discoveries at Bigelow Laboratory have broad implications that, in addition to enhancing the study of marine biology, also may be directly applied to studies in the areas of pharmacology, epidemiology, agriculture, and human genetics. Researchers around the world are implementing software that continues to be developed at the Laboratory to study a wide variety of issues that require detailed evaluations of molecular adaptation. Other areas of Bigelow's bioinformatics program include bioinformatics software benchmarking; and the development of methods for genetic sequence alignment, phylogeny reconstruction, and hypothesis testing using observed and predicted patterns of genetic mutation.
Future directions for the bioinformatics program at Bigelow include the development of a high-powered Computational Facility for the primary purpose of genomic assembly and annotation. This facility will be closely allied with the emphasis on microbial genomics in which the Laboratory is demonstrating global leadership. Technological advances in the area of single-cell genome sequencing, combined with the ability to quickly assemble and annotate genomes, will establish Bigelow Laboratory as a core facility fundamental to the expansion of biological knowledge, especially in the area of microbial genetics and evolution, and may prove pivotal in our pursuit of methods to adapt in response to global climate change.