17. – 22. November 2002, Dagstuhl-Seminar 02471

Computational Biology


Russ B. Altman (Stanford University, US)
David Gilbert (Brunel University, GB)
Thomas Lengauer (MPI für Informatik – Saarbrücken, DE)

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Computational Biology addresses the problems of interpreting genomic data with computational methods. These data harbor the biological secrets of life, however, these secrets are encoded in intricate ways that we do not understand yet. The genome tells which molecules should be manufactured and when they should be manufactured in what quantities. It says how the molecules should be arranged and harbors information on how they interact with each other. All of this information is so cryptically encoded in the genome, however, that we need computers to learn biology from the genomic information.

With the great advance of the underlying experimental techniques in biology – which provided complete genomes of several hundred organisms, by now and is unearthing additional voluminous data on the difference of the molecular makeup of different tissues in healthy and diseased conditions, computational biology has experienced rapid development. The field is highly intediciplinary, with aspects from physics, chemistry, biology and medicine as well as mathematics, statistics and computer science. Therefore the need of scientific exchange is enormous. This seminar series addresses this need and brings together active researchers for a wide variety of backgrounds that participate in the quest of understanding the molecular basis of life with computational methods.

The seminar explored traditional as well as some more novel issues in computational biology. The field has expanded greatly in the past years, and the danger has grown of splitting the field into more and more separate sub-disciplines. This seminar attempted to slow down this trend by giving all attendees an overview of the state of the art in widely differing sub-areas of computational biology. These included haplotype analysis, sequence analysis, molecular structure analysis, molecular docking, analysis of gene expression data and biochemical networks as well as issues in medical applications and software issues in project design. The days were filled with lectures that had extended discussion periods. Some of the talks had decidedly tutorial character. Early afternoons were set aside for informal discussions. There were evening discussion sessions on Biochemical Pathways, and Bioinformatics and Disease. It was a common sentiment that the broad scope of the seminar is worthwhile and should be maintained in future seminars.

This seminar was the fourth seminar on general issues in Computational Biology that was held at Dagstuhl. Three previous seminars on this topic have been held in 1992, 1995 and 2000.

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