Melbourne Bioinformatics has evolved in 2017 from a seven-year project, the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI) which was funded by the Victorian Government (2009-2016) and member institutions and hosted by the University of Melbourne. This high-end facility has built a team of experts and complex system capacity to enhance life science computing, particularly in Melbourne’s biomedical precinct. The EMBL Australia Bioinformatics Resource (EMBL-ABR, www.embl-abr.org.au) is also hosted at Melbourne Bioinformatics through a funding agreement between the University of Melbourne and Bioplatforms Australia. Co-locating here gives EMBL-ABR access to a team of over 30 expert bioinformaticians working to build Australia’s capacity in bioinformatics, with nodes of activity across all the major Australian states, focussed particularly on meeting the increasing demand for training and skills development in bioinformatics.
HOST and MEMBER INSTITUTION
Three member institutions successfully joined host institution University of Melbourne in a bid for funds to purchase a new high-end computing system in 2017 and their researchers and students share access to systems as an ongoing legacy of the Victorian Government funding for the Initiative
Melbourne Bioinformatics is affiliated with the following bodies operating across life sciences industry:
AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE COLLABORATORS
Through contracts with host institution, the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Bioinformatics (as VLSCI) and EMBL-ABR have been engaged to deliver a series of research infrastructure projects for the Australian research community funded under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) in collaborations with:
In a project led by the University of Queensland, Melbourne Bioinformatics (as VLSCI) contributed expertise and developed training materials for the Genomics Virtual Labaoratory, a NeCTAR-funded project (NeCTAR is an NCRIS project).
Over 2015/16 15% of our IBM BlueGene/Q system was made available to Australian researchers through the National Computational Merit Allocation Scheme.
EMBL-ABR NODE PARTNERS
Through a 2015 agreement between the University of Melbourne and Bioplatforms Australia, Melbourne Bioinformatics (as VLSCI) undertook to build the next stage of the EMBL Australia Bioinformatics Resource into a truly national network of service providers via nodes across Australia. The nodes are providing local training and researcher support, plus bioinformatics tools and platform access, modelled on the successful services delivered at VLSCI over 2010-2016.
We sponsor student and early career researcher events and training in bioinformatics through COMBINE and career and skills development of practising bioinformaticians through their professional body, ABACBS.
WHAT IS BIOINFORMATICS?
‘Bioinformatics is the application of information technologies and sciences to the organisation, management, mining and use of life-science information.’ (Australian Government Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources 2002)
The term ‘life-science information’ includes genetic, molecular, cellular, specimen, epidemiological and biodiversity information. Activities encompassed by bioinformatics include: ‘all aspects of gathering, storing, handling, analysing, interpreting and spreading vast amounts of biological information in databases.’ (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Regional Services 2001)
…Bioinformatics is also referred to in life-science literature as biological informatics, biomedical computing, computational biology or bio-IT….the definition adopted … is broad, including both microbioinformatics (e.g. involving the use of genomic or proteomic data) and macrobioinformatics (e.g. species/biodiversity informatics, health/medical informatics).
[The definition should] be broad enough to cater for future trends and applications of bioinformatics. Currently, as some stakeholders have observed, bioinformatics definitions reflect the primacy of genomics and proteomics and often exclude biodiversity and health informatics.
Many international comparisons do not consider macrobioinformatics. However, bioinformatics has shown some capacity to go beyond the sum of biology and IT and include physical sciences (mathematics, physics and chemistry) and medicine, with powerful implications for not only biodiversity, but also drug design and personalised medicine.
(National Bioinformatics Strategy 2005, Australia, p.10)