Computer science pioneer lends bioinformatics expertise for QB3

10 Jan 2001 | While computers have rapidly mapped the DNA in the human genome, computer scientists and mathematicians are building new computational programs and tools to make sense of it all.

The emerging field of bioinformatics - using computers and algorithms to analyze and model data to determine how genes and living cells work - is the specialty of Berkeley theoretical computer scientist Richard Karp.

Regarded as one of the leading theoretical computer scientists in the world, Karp will pursue research in bioinformatics as part of the newly announced California Institute for Bioengineering, Biotechnology and Quantitative Biomedical Research Institute.

For the last eight years, he has trained his attention on the role of computation in the study of molecular biology and the genome - the blueprint of DNA sequences containing genes that control cell functions and carry our hereditary information.

"A DNA chip works like a computer chip," says Karp, "but instead of silicon gates and wires, a tiny, regular array of DNA 'spots' is deposited directly on the device surface, generating massive amounts of complex data at the cellular level. Eventually, this information could become the basis for developing personalized medicine, where physicians prescribe drugs based on each patient's genotype."

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