In October 2020, the Bioinformatics Network Mexico hosted a 2-day conference to provide an opportunity for Latin American researchers from different disciplines to exchange ideas and scientific developments relating to bioinformatics. Interface Focus has recently published a new issue based on the work presented. We spoke with the issue organiser, Dr Maribel Hernandez Rosales, about the conference topics, the role of bioinformatics in aiding medical research, and the future of research in this area.
1. What was the aim of the conference ‘Bioinformatics in Latin America’, which this issue emerged from?
ISCB-Latin America SoIBio BioNetMX Symposium on Bioinformatics 2020 was organised by the Bioinformatics Network Mexico (BioNetMX, in Spanish it is known as RMB), together with the Iberoamerican Society of Bioinformatics (SoIBio) and the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB).
The aim of this conference was to bring together scientists from different bioinformatics fields in Latin America to provide a forum to showcase scientific developments. This virtual symposium provided the environment for exchanging ideas between researchers developing algorithms and researchers with exciting problems that require new algorithms to be created.
The online event received abstracts that mainly related to methods and algorithms in computational biology for microorganisms, human research and other species. The main topics included cancer, regulatory networks, evolution and studies of non-coding RNA. Our issue reflects all of these topics. In particular, the researchers presented new methods with applications to “de novo" genome assembly, the study of evolutionary events, non-coding RNA sequences, and regulatory networks.
2. How does this issue reflect bioinformatics research in this region?
Bioinformatics brings together scientists from different disciplines, such as biology, medicine, pharmacology, ecology, computer science, mathematics, physics, among others, in order to solve relevant biological questions. This event brought together people from these areas (trainees, industry, and scientific leaders), but also provided a forum to showcase major scientific developments from all over the world. Importantly, given the broad participation of international researchers, it helped the bioinformatics community strengthen interactions within Latin America, a region that has shown great potential in the area.
This issue contains the research of nine international groups, however, seven of them are the results of researchers from Latin America, showing that bioinformatics is an emerging field that is growing in the region.
3. How can bioinformatics aid medical research?
Bioinformatics has many applications. In medical research bioinformatics methods are widely used, from the modelling of biological interactions in health and disease states to the analysis of medical records analysis and omics data from patients.
In this special issue it is noticeable how bioinformatics methods can be applied to biomedical research in different relevant medical subjects such as viral studies, either to assess vaccine efficiency or emergence of new strains; cancer research using network approaches, or multi-omics approaches for the identification of different stages of glioblastoma multiforme.
4. The techniques presented in this issue can be used by researchers from a wide variety of disciplines. What can researchers from different disciplines learn from each other?
Bioinformatics brings together researchers from different disciplines, such as biology, computer science, genomics, mathematics, ecology, medicine, among others, to solve relevant biological questions. Researchers can learn high-end tools for the analysis of their biological data, as well as to share ideas about the development of novel approaches to biological questions. Several bioinformatics analyses can be done, e.g., whole or partial genome analyses, transcriptomics, analysis of a particular gene or protein, biological networks, and structural biology.
5. What is the future for research in bioinformatics?
Bioinformatics has had a great impact in different areas of research, such as medicine, ecology and biology, among others.
Bioinformatics is a multi-faceted discipline that will continue to integrate the new trends in computer science, physics, mathematics and artificial intelligence as part of the basic methods to be used in any project. We foresee it will continue to strengthen in the region, with training and awareness of its relevance.
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Image credit: Comparison of subnetworks of genes. The network shown is formed by 594 nodes and 3107 edges. See “Automated generation of context-specific gene regulatory networks with a weighted approach in Drosophila melanogaster” by Murgas et al. in this issue (https://doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2020.0076).