What Is BioInformatics, And Who Cares Anyway?

genome182014-250x188Bioinformatics is a blend of gathering information about human biology, usually genetics or biochemistry, and using computers to crunch the numbers and write reports. One part is laboratory research, and the other is high-level math and computer programming.

Each of these fields is moving fast, and trying to keep your head above water in just one of these subjects must hard, and trying to do both may be a sign of insanity. These are both ‘all-or-nothing’ areas; dabbling at one must require time, energy, and focus that will keep you from ever being at the top of your game in the other.

This article lays out the hard realities of life regarding these career paths. That is, ending up with no life, no balance, just work.

Like the salmon, swimming upstream constantly with no rest, to finally come to the end of the path and die.

I’ve emphasized in bold a paragraph that shows how mainstream science works, and why you should not wait for a medically-approved cure for any disease; no matter what your age right now, a cure will not likely happen in your lifetime. Medicine is an industry that feeds on itself, and promises of cures from science are too complex.

I know there is a point of no return, and I suppose drugs may help in those cases where you are truly grasping at straws – but forcing the body to respond to drugs or radiation or chemotherapy may remove bad cells, but does not create health, and often the treatment kills.

Consider this: Instead of dedicating these bright minds to creating chemicals with unknown side-effects, perhaps we could instead be using what is already known to work: Life Itself. We know the answers already, we just don’t know how to measure it. The answers are fresh air, clean water, fresh food grown from healthy soil, and time for the body to rebuild itself.

Perhaps the BioInformatics could work with organic farmers, helping discover natural healing tools, and find the joy of living, giving, and producing real value to everyone – not just those who can afford the high-priced outcome of drug research.

drugs-and-dna-250x127An excerpt from: Frontier in Bioinformatics

Biology is a physical science. Computer is a new tool to analyze the system just like molecular biology was in early 80s.

To find respect in layer 5 of computational biology, you will need to create new and effective algorithms, and that may make you master of the physical machine called computer, but it will take you away from living systems over time. To be a productive biologist, on the other hand, you will not be able to avoid the dirty and time-consuming work.

Let us go through the most important branch, from where biologists derive their largest funding from and explain why the physical science component will continue to remain the most important. Undoubtedly, it is the human health sector.

Many bioinformaticians seem to think that having access to genome sequences of all human beings will become the largest part of healthcare system, but that is far from true. Let us say that we run genome-wide association studies and find the most important genes for a rare disease. That gives a strong lead for finding cure, but we are far from curing the disease. Finding a drug that cures the disease will require very good knowledge of chemistry, proper understanding of the pathways affected by the drug and many, many months (years) of experimentation. It is true that the experimental part is time consuming, but society is willing to pay more for those curing diseases than those saying something about the diseases.

To be able to outshine the leaders in both places (computing and drug discovery) is extremely hard, because the computing world moves fast and so does the medical world. If you are really that good, you should seriously start thinking about not doing a PhD.