The Last Emerging Tech

Bioinformatics is a truly transformational emerging discipline.

The sequencing of the human genome has resulted in the emergence of an enormously important new branch in the biotechnological sciences. The most common terms for this field are ‘bioinformatics’ or ‘computational biology.’

Until recently, cell biology has been something of a ‘black box.’ We could observe how cells functioned, but had little insight into the actual mechanisms. Now, though, scientists are learning how cells work on the molecular level. Using mathematical models and new technologies for detecting molecular processes, researchers are extracting raw data from DNA and modeling the ways genes work and interact…

The process of unraveling and decoding the DNA software involves massive amounts of data collection. Then, once collected, correlation and other forms of computer analysis are performed on those data to figure out cause and effect. How big is this challenge?

Consider this: Each human cell contains about 3 gigabytes (3 billion bytes) of pure data and instructions. If this information were written in book form, it would require 5,000 volumes, each 300 pages long. That’s 120 times larger than the kernel of the Windows operating system, which is about 25 megabytes of code. This data resides, of course, in each cell’s pinpoint-sized nucleus.

The decoding of all these systems is a huge computational challenge. It has only just begun and it would not be possible, in fact, without recent advances in computer technologies. As more powerful computing comes online, the pace of bioinformatics discovery will accelerate. Quantum computing, because it is particularly suited to sorting out cell biology, will enable a ‘quantum’ leap in understanding.