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Education

Introduction to Translational Bioinformatics Collection

  • Russ B. Altman mail

    russ.altman@stanford.edu

    Affiliation: Department of Genetics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America

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Thank you, and a wake up call for African Universities and scholars!

Posted by wmisaki on 02 Jan 2013 at 19:29 GMT

I write to say—thank you to Altman RB, the chapter-authors, and PLoS Computational biology for bringing this e-book too our door step, as usual open access!

I have taken time to peruse through much of the chapters, and I can vie with certainty that each is going to be relevant to myself and students-alike. In 2008, I embarked on an unpopular journey then to begin a program in Pathogen-Omics at Makerere University. With the help of the then chair of Medical microbiology, I had my first talk on the subject—no power point, to mostly staff and students of the same department. Looking back today, I am proud to say that among the persons present, a PhD student is enrolled at Georgia University—strictly to do bioinformatics. Indeed, many have come and passed through my torch—and I have faith that the critical mass of bio-informaticians will be reached one day, particularly with more books and literature as this.

But how did I come to this place, to be a bioinformatician myself? I never got a formal degree in the same! Yet still, one can not effectively out-argue the fact that I have been one of the pioneers in the application of translational bioinformatics to ‘infectious diseases’. In 1999—while still a 1st year medical student, I got introduced to the subject of bacteria restriction modification (R-M) systems. As would be with neophytes, I was fascinated and kept the system playing in my sub-conscious, and until one day the ‘aha’ insight led me to the realization that the same—an innate defense in bacteria against bacteriophages; could be used to design and model eukaryotic virus targeting gene therapies.

That’s how I ran with the idea to the then head of genetics; hoping we could test it immediately. Nothing, even the head of virology at UVRI then told me it could take us 50 years to do such work-testing over 3,000 restriction enzymes against HIV. It is now over 10 years down the road; and within those years, I have learnt to offer credit to the field of bioinformatics. In 2006, after my internship as a medical doctor in Uganda, I opted to try my project elsewhere, and Canada, Toronto was my site. There, I got indulged in the Bioentrepreneurship program at the MaRS discovery district in Toronto and that’s when my most important break through came. On advise, I sought the help of Promega, and the Director of research there then, introduced me to what I shall call my first bioinformatics software-Webcutter, a program for searching restriction enzymes (REases) that cut across genomes! Within 6 months, I had my first work in bioinformatics published—“Frequency and Site mapping of HIV and other SIV cleavage by bacteria REases: Precursors of a novel HIV inhibitory product”. Since then, I divided in the area, self-teaching the use and search of several databases: Gene, Protein, Chemical, Metabolic, Metabolite, etc.

Disturbingly, a number of my senior clinical fellows think my papers are concocted, especially since I do not have to seek IRB approval to use the softwares and their associated databanks. My work has made a folly of many, who have attempted to fight it while suffering editorial rebuke. That’s why, it brings me hope that I am steadily impacting a nation, perhaps a continent, or world. Two books cite our work as of now: (i) Chibale K et al’s Drug discovery in Africa: Impact of Genomics, and Shor T’s Understanding Viruses! I am collecting—as Richard Hamming advised, most prizes and travel opportunities here. I believe that with this e-book out, more of my colleagues and students will become enlightened.

Cheers!






No competing interests declared.