Last week involved two external visits. The first and short one was to Oxford Nanopore Technology (ONT) on the Oxford Science Park. ONT has a very exciting core technology, based on the work of Hagan Bayley at Oxford University, for sequencing DNA by studying the electrical changes accompanying the passage of DNA bases through a nm-sized (mainly, but not exclusively, biologically based) hole (a nanopore). DNA Sequencing is a highly competitive area, but one advantage of this particularly technology is that it can be (and has been) applied to a variety of other assays.
The other main and longer visit was as part of our second Institute Assessment Panel (IAP) visit, this one to IBERS at Aberystwyth University, and chaired by Council member Prof Sir David Baulcombe. It was a particular pleasure to meet up with the new Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Prof April McMahon, and IBERS Director Wayne Powell, and to hear of their outstanding vision for IBERS and the University. (Readers will know that I worked in Aberystwyth for many years, until 2002.) As with the previous IAP, funding decisions will be taken by Council next year.
Understanding and manipulating (bio)chemical information is at the heart of modern biology, and describing terms and relationships unambiguously is key to progress in its computational automation (an example involves the production of consensus metabolic networks, which are largely lacking). A recent paper sets down some of the issues and progress being made in systematising various kinds of chemical information by providing an ontology for cheminformatics.
- Hastings J, Chepelev L, Willighagen E, Adams N, Steinbeck C, Dumontier M: The chemical information ontology: provenance and disambiguation for chemical data on the biological semantic web. PLoS One 2011; 6:e25513. Full free text
- Herrgård MJ et mult al.: A consensus yeast metabolic network obtained from a community approach to systems biology. Nature Biotechnol 2008; 26:1155-1160
- Stefan, S., Cheley, S. & Bayley, H. (2001) Sequence-specific detection of individual DNA strands using engineered nanopores. Nature Biotechnol. 19, 636-639
- Stobbe, MD, Houten, SM, Jansen, GA, van Kampen, AHC & Moerland, PD (2011) Critical assessment of human metabolic pathway databases: a stepping stone for future integration. BMC Systems Biology 2011, 5:165 doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-165. Free full text as pdf
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