Genomics is already delivering precision treatments to patients with remarkable speed: the landscape of life sciences is changing and it’s being driven by information.
Data is collected to help us understand disease and make better medicines all the time, not just in clinical trials but in sequencing of human genetic data and the millions of research studies published throughout the world every year. The next blockbuster cure could be right under our noses, but if there's no way for us to connect the dots it could take years for us to find it.
Bioinformatics is crucial for making sense of the vast amount of data that exists. Genomics is just one field where a better grip on using information is paving the way for new treatments. Screening of new-borns uses blood and other tests to find rare and potentially life threatening diseases. This genomic testing allows doctors and medical experts to identify and better understand more of those diseases than ever before but it also lets us look at a comprehensive data set.
Are there similarities between those new-borns that could help us detect genetic disease even earlier or even find cures? Expert biostatistician are using algorithms to lead the next generation of sequencing helping us to see the human genome in detail we never thought imaginable.
Because of this understanding, personalised and effective medical treatments are emerging at a faster rate than ever before. Data from the ambitious 100,000 Genome Project, pioneered by Genomics England, is now being made available for medical experts to discover more about rare and genetic illnesses. They hoped to sequence the most amount of genetic data ever and their success has spawned a number of spin-offs - most recently a private model based on the same principle emerging across the Atlantic.
Bioinformaticians need to draw on analytical methods and software tools in order to interpret biological data. Being an expert in biostatistics, having a head for maths and an aptitude for computer science and engineering can get you so far, but you need an appreciation of how it fits within the wider biological context.
Researchers need to be able to harness the accuracy and precision offered by bioinformatics. The analysis and development of data has now become critical to delivering the next generation of medicines to patients.
Bioinformatics is a varied field and sees a lot of cross over with biostatistics and computational biology. Data drives everything from our understanding of disease outbreaks, to medicines consultations, and algorithms for better genetic testing.
Skilled experts in maths, computer science or engineering make a difference to the lives of patients around the world. But there's a problem: new research puts bioinformatics jobs as the second most at-risk in the UK for skills shortages. The technology isn't enough to solve the challenges of new medicines development without the skilled people behind it.
The pharmaceutical industry takes the brightest and the best. In a field that changes month-by-month, as computational innovations come down the pipeline, bioinformaticians have the unique chance to not only help develop our understanding of how data can keep us healthy but also put it into action.
Choosing bioinformatics might not be obvious at first, but if you fancy a career that puts you on the frontline of innovation and constantly challenges you to think then it might be for you. Your expertise in building effective ways to view a huge amount of data could lead to early detection and identification to help us better understand cancers and genetic diseases.
What's the salary of a bioinformatician in the UK?
Starting salaries for a graduate bioinformatician in private sector industry range from £27,000 to £30,000.
The salary range for a highly experienced bioinformatician in the public or private sector can rise to £58,000 and beyond.
Salaries may be lower in some public sector and contract laboratories and location will influence salary. Those with a PhD may earn considerably more. Salary details are taken from Prospects.ac.uk and may not reflect the salary roles of comparable roles in other countries