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Bioinformatics organization. (txgnet).

Bioinformatics--the rapidly evolving science of managing and analyzing biological data using advanced computing programs--is a vital tool for evaluating the volumes of data generated by genomics research. Bioinformatics Organization is a nonprofit international group with more than 5,500 members that is working to promote the free and unrestricted exchange of bioinformatics resources and data among all scientists, including those with little funding or at small institutions, who may not be able to afford access to cutting-edge resources through the usual channels. As part of this mission, the group has established a forum for information and data exchange at http://bioinformatics.org/.

The Bioinformatics FAQ page includes a brief discussion of how the Human Genome Project has impacted bioinformatics and related fields such as computational biology and pharmacogenomics. The page also provides overviews of the technologies currently being used in bioinformatics, lists of books, links to university bioinformatics programs around the world, and portals to web directories and tutorials. This section also includes practical advice for performing a number of common bioinformatics functions and a glossary of commonly used terms.

Group members are currently involved in nearly 100 projects, which are listed under the Hosted Projects header on the homepage. Examples include ALiBio, a free online library of algorithms, and BioQuery, which allows visitors to search multiple biomedical databases simultaneously and automatically informs users when new data matching a search query become available. Multi-Genome Navigator, or MuGeN, is a software package that allows users to explore multiple annotated genomes simultaneously. And GUI Blast gives Windows users a graphical user interface for using Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) software.

The Research Laboratory section of the site contains databases of, among other things, expressed sequence tag (EST) clusters. Users of the EST database can clusterize publicly available EST sequences and contigate them using a specific assembler known as zEST. The site's developers hope visitors will thus help build the repository of EST clusters, which can be used in the discovery of new genes, splice variants, and gene polymorphisms. Also available in this section are databases of immigrant genes, leukemia genes, and pancreatic cancer genes.

The main page lists current news items from sources including journals, newspapers, government agencies, and software developers. Archived news items dating back to 2000 provide a look back at the discipline's progress. Registered users can post items of interest to the rest of the bioinformatics community.

Since 2002, Bioinformatics Organization has awarded the annual Benjamin Franklin Award to an individual its members feel has "promoted freedom and openness in the field of bioinformatics." The 2003 award went to Jim Kent of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who used his own GigAssembler program to assemble the public fragments of the human genome before Celera Genomics was able to assemble their private human genome sequence. This helped keep these data in the public domain.
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Author:Dooley, Erin E.
Publication:Environmental Health Perspectives
Date:May 15, 2003
Words:476
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