No summer break for bioinformatics

Auckland University of Technology is holding a summer school seminar on bioinformatics - the application of IT to biotechnology.

Auckland University of Technology is holding a summer school seminar on bioinformatics — the application of IT to biotechnology.

Why should there be a special branch of IT dedicated to this area? Because biological information has specific characteristics, says Professor Nik Kasabov, the director of AUT’s KEDRI (Knowledge Engineering and Discovery Research Institute) which will run the course.

“Bioinformatics combines several areas of science: biology, genetics, biomedicine, software and computer engineering — because bioinformatics has specialist hardware such as bio-chips.”

Kasabov, whose background is in computer science, developed a bioinformatic interest at the University of Otago. “I worked developing gene data analysis tools for cancer. It’s a huge area and requires collaboration of computer scientists, biologists, biochemists and other disciplines.

“New Zealand has a long history of research in biology, horticulture, agriculture, animal sciences, the biomedical sciences and bio-protection. They all need sophisticated tools for biological analysis. We have well educated people but need to brush up with the current and contemporary technique to be more competitive globally.”

The main problem in dealing with biological information is the massive amount of data, which is distributed all over the world, says Kasabov.

He says bioinformatics has several major areas of development — bioinformatics database, statistical methods and the new areas of computational intelligence in biological applications.

“That includes artificial intelligence, neural networks and support vector machines — all the state-of-the-art AI development goes to help processing biological information.”

The summer school course will focus on those three areas looking at contemporary problems and issues in biotechnology. The $600 course will run from February 24 to 26.

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