Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BioInformatics for Malaysia

Bio-informatics isn’t just another tool used in biotechnology research activities. It is deemed as the most important tool that is rapidly transforming the huge genomic data into useful information ranging from health care biotechnology to agriculture biotechnology. Without these tools, the abundant genomic data available becomes meaningless. Being such an important tool, it comes with no surprise that it is also the fastest evolving science in the field of biotechnology. Bioinformatics is a very complex field of study as it involves not only biology but also a strong discipline in computer science, statistics and mathematics.

The advances in this technology have initiated many start-up companies worldwide to tap into the huge amount of genomic data to create knowledge while useful applications are developed for better health and environment. One of such is the private company called 23andme providing Personal Genome Services which allows individuals to gain deeper insights into their ancestry and inherited traits. This enables individuals to discover genes that contribute to their personal characteristics. This is just one of the many companies that have benefited using bioinformatics as their platform to create successful business.

Looking at the potential contribution of this technology to the development of biotechnology in Malaysia, we have to assess our own strength, weaknesses and opportunities to enable the growth of biotechnology using bioinformatics. Just like any other discipline or field of study, availability of human capital is a must. But unfortunately developing human capital for bioinformatics is not an easy task. It’s simply because of the complexity of the subject matter that requires extensive understanding of biology as well as computational skills. What would be the best approach in becoming a bioinformatician? Should a biologist acquire computational skills or computer scientists take up biotechnology? There is no clear cut answer to this scenario but generally it appears that it’s much easier for a biotechnologist with strong analytical skills to acquire computational skills than the other way around. We do have institutes of higher learning offering bioinformatics at undergraduate and post-graduate levels but this alone is not sufficient. It’s about time we need a fully functional, dedicated and centralized Bioinformatics Institute. The closest we have is Malaysian Genome Institute (MGI) or known as GENOMalaysia which comes under MOSTI but unfortunately not many industry players are aware of the existence of the institute or the services offered by them. Besides collaborating with research institutes, MGI should open up their services extensively to private sectors in which local and foreign companies can use their services to further enhance their processes or products.

In the private sector, we can be proud of local companies providing world class bioinformatics solutions. In collaboration with Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation, Malaysian Genomics Resource Centre (MGRC) is providing ultra fast sequence analysis tools to research communities around the globe. By using a novel database platform from her parent company Synamatix, MGRC is able to provide researchers with search results in milliseconds and minutes as opposed to hours or days compared to applications built on conventional database platforms. Another homegrown bioinformatics company is Infovalley providing not only bioinformatics solutions but also medical and forensic tools to customers around the world. The existence of these world class bioinformatics players is clearly an indicator that we are in the right direction in becoming a global bioinformatics hub.

Bioinformatics is a catalyst for the growth of biotechnology and has to evolve in tandem with the latest advances in all research sectors of biotechnology. With the right exposure to the young minds, we have the capacity to nurture local bioinformatics experts to fuel the increasing demand for bioinformaticions in all biotechnology research institutes in Malaysia as well as in the region. We have all the right ingredients to transform Malaysia into a global bioinformatics hub; all we need now is concerted effort from the government and the private sector to realize this dream.

-by Joel William
(image by University of North Carolina)

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bioinformatics is an interesting subject...is there a future for this field in Malaysia? Is the job scope wide?

Drona Dewi said...

oh yes!!! but bioinformatics is not tht simple...how do we go about thn??

Joel said...

Bioinformatics is both interesting and a little difficult to understand due to its multidisciplinary nature. Besides understanding the biology theory, one has to master programming skills as well as mathematics and statistics. Generally not many biotech students are interested in this field due to its complexity, which makes it very difficult to find experts in this field in Malaysia. Experts in bioinformatics are very much needed in biotechnology research institutes researching in all fields. Due to lack of experts in this area, most research institutes are conducting in house bioinformatics training for their staff to be able to perform genomic analysis but this is definitely not the best direction for research institutes. Most research institutes have their own bioinformatics unit but unfortunately they need trained experts to fill up positions.

Biology graduates interested in computing should take up formal education in bioinformatics by completing Masters or Phd in bioinformatics as the demand for experts in this field is ever growing. Despite being a niche field, the scope is definitely getting bigger as there are more emphasis lately towards genomics and proteomics. For more information, please do read the article in this link: http://pubs.acs.org/cen/employment/8001/8001employment.html

Kind regards,

Joel William

elaine said...

Hi,do anyone know is there any Bio-informatics company for Industrial Training student?As I am Bioinfo major student, and will having my industrial training in the coming June.But,I do not know what kind of company is suitable for my major.

please kindly email to me at : elaine_peiying@hotmail.com

Thanks

hari said...

i just finished my spm last year n im really interested in this field...if any cn help 2 give some info what, how where to get my studies start in this field pls mail me at rihahari@yahoo.com..

Melissa said...

This is a good post. It clearly states the problem in bioinformatics: talent. We lack expertise in this field and facilities. I think there's also a need for our local scientists to work more closely bioinformatians and make full use of their data/results. I agree that it's easier for biologist to pick up bioinformatics and not the other way around. Therefore, it's crucial for bioinformatics students to attend molecular biology-related courses and have basic wet lab experience.
Next Generation Sequencing has been shaping the world of genomics over these past 2-3 years. Bioinformatians skilled at NGS data analysis are in high demand. This is one of the things bioinformatians should look out for.

Kay said...

1.Can anybody here tell me What bioinformatic study about ?
2.What type of jobs can I perform after graduate?
3.Is bioinfo related to forensic?

MABIC blog said...

To answer Kay:
1. Bioinformatics is the study of applying IT into molecular biology. What that means in brief is using computers to study and analyse DNA and proteins to understand various biological systems.

2. Jobs are mainly restricted to companies like MGRC, as well as research institutes which need technicians to analyse their data from them. But such restrictions are not the only jobs bioinformaticists do.

3. It is not related to forensics.

Anonymous said...

It is not related to forensic, but there is something about forensic bioinformatics. Do students graduated with degree of bioinformatics have the opportunity to work in forensic field?

Jyed said...

hi, does mabic take student for Industrial training ?

joe said...

how about salary? and which university offer this course.... ?

mosesakhil pulidindi said...

hi friends im p.moses akhil from india....i done M.sc bioinformatics with 73%....please tell me jobs for bioinformatics or suggest me some jobs .....i can do any job ....please....

Amalina Kamal said...

Hye there, I am a graduate of Bioinformatics (degree) from National University of Malaysia. Completed my study in 2011. Up till now, I am still searching Bioinfo jobs in Malaysia. I ended up working in a field which is not related to Bioinfo or Biology at all. I think it's a waste to let the undergraduate of Bioinfo ended up working a non-related field. Bioinfo has a lot to offer to the Malaysian Biotech market, but i dont see any initiatives done by government or NGO.

hervin vin said...

Hi. I'm a fresh graduate of bioinformatics from Management and Science University. I wanted so much to work in bioinformatics field. Can someone help me by letting me know if there is any bioinformatics job. I finished my degree and as I see all the job require master or phD.

Mohd Arifin Kaderi said...

Hi, I am a biomedical scientist currently undertaking postdoctoral research fellowship at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO-IARC) in France. Seeing the development in cancer research here, I have the impression that the future of research & discoveries in this field will depend in large proportion on bioinformatics. Genomics, transcriptomics, epigenetics, proteomics all produces zillions of data everyday, which requires bioinformatician to analyse the data in order for biologists & biomeds to make further analyses. Makes me feel to go back to the classroom and take a postgrad class in bioinformatics... (though my learning & memorizing abilities is not as good as before, at this 4-decade of age and with 4 kids)...

Mohd Arifin Kaderi said...

Hi, I am a biomedical scientist currently undertaking postdoctoral research fellowship at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO-IARC) in France. Seeing the development in cancer research here, I have the impression that the future of research & discoveries in this field will depend in large proportion on bioinformatics. Genomics, transcriptomics, epigenetics, proteomics all produces zillions of data everyday, which requires bioinformatician to analyse the data in order for biologists & biomeds to make further analyses. Makes me feel to go back to the classroom and take a postgrad class in bioinformatics... (though my learning & memorizing abilities is not as good as before, at this 4-decade of age and with 4 kids)...

Anonymous said...

i am currently pursuing my study in Bioinformatics..i will have to go for industrial training soon..i have a hard time to search for bioinformatic company..do you have any suggestion? kindly email me at meeraz92@gmail.com if u do have list of companies. tq

Yoga Balan said...

i am currently pursuing my study in Bioinformatics..i will have to go for industrial training soon..i have a hard time to search for bioinformatic company..do you have any suggestion? kindly email me at yoga_b4reen@yahoo.com if u do have list of companies. tq