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Bioinformatics-driven research that relies on computers rather than test tubes

The Miyazaki Laboratory in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences’ Department of Pharmacy uses no test tubes or pipettes in its experiments. Instead, it makes use of the specialized field of computer-driven “bioinformatics.”

Bioinformatics is a discipline that combines informatics, medicine, pharmaceutical science and biology. Specifically, it uses computers to perform data science processing and analysis of the genome: the entire set of genetic information for living organisms.

The Miyazaki Laboratory has utilized bioinformatics in multiple research studies, including analysis of the influenza virus genome and structural analysis of botulism bacillus.

In 2020, following the profound societal impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Miyazaki Laboratory undertook research into the novel coronavirus as well.

Because of its rapid rate of mutation, the novel coronavirus was not suited to research that relied on long-term study with a microscope. Thus, researchers have used bioinformatics to create computer simulations to study transmission speed, as well as to compare the genetic information of the human and novel coronavirus genomes, all with the aim of developing medicines.

Using data-driven drug discovery to protect human health

The use of genomic information has dramatically increased the speed of drug discovery and disease prevention research. However, genomic analysis has traditionally required an immense investment in terms of time and cost. The current bioinformatics-driven approach to genomic analysis cuts down significantly on the amount of time and money required. It is safe to say that bioinformatics-driven genomic analysis will eventually become indispensable.

At the Miyazaki Laboratory, researchers are working towards the creation of a new field known as “pharmacoinformatics” which revolves around bioinformatics-driven genomic analysis and promises to contribute to further drug discovery development. Once established, this new field of study is expected to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus, as well as in the development of medicine as a whole.

Another important goal of the Miyazaki Laboratory is to cultivate students to be proficient in the use of bioinformatics. By training them how to use technology to analyze genomic structures and gene sequences in order to identify genetic characteristics suitable for drug targeting, the Miyazaki Laboratory seeks to cultivate students capable of contributing to the success of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences Department of Pharmacy
Professor Satoru MIYAZAKI

■ Main research content

Areas of specialization encompass bioinformatics and information theory. Research fields include genome analysis and integrated database systems. The aim of research is to utilize computer analysis of massive amounts of biological data to obtain feedback that will contribute to drug discovery.

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