Needs and Seeds: Changing Roles of Bioinformatics
Minoru Kanehisa, Professor, Bioinformatics Center, Institute for Chemical Research, Kyoto University, Japan; Human Genome Center, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, Japan
The Human Genome Program of the then Ministry of Education was officially started in April 1991. Around that time I was recruiting computer scientists who would be interested in joining the program, for it was apparent that seed informatics technologies would be essential for large-scale data processing needs. Thus, bioinformatics was born from the marriage of molecular biology and computer science. Ten years later, in April 2001, the Kyoto University Bioinformatics Center was established. By then draft sequencing of the human genome was almost done, and new experimental technologies such as microarrays were widely used. The Bioinformatics Center's mission was to provide key informatics technologies for genome-based biological sciences, which would benefit not only large omics projects but also smaller individual laboratories. Since then the Center has grown together with our KEGG database, where technological seeds of bioinformatics and various needs of biological sciences have become tightly integrated. Another ten years later, in April 2011, the Kyoto University Bioinformatics Center was reborn, focusing more on chemistry. Since drugs, food, and environmental compounds are chemical substances that are more familiar to the general public, I hope technological seeds will meet social needs in the next decade. The scientists' promises about medical and social benefits of the Human Genome Project and the following projects are long overdue, but I think we are finally at the stage of bringing the genomic revolution to society.