A paradigm shift in the use of computers in molecular biology: Internet and World-Wide Web

Amos Bairoch, Ph.D.
Dept. Medical Biochemistry
1, rue Michel Servet
1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland

Molecular biology is a scientific field which is rapidly evolving, the emergence of new sequencing techniques such as PCR and the advent of genome mapping and sequencing projects have completely transformed the way research is done. It has also brought about a massive increase in the amount of information available whether in the form of publications, DNA or protein sequences or images. Nowadays one recognizes that biologists, biochemists and medical researchers must be able to work at three different levels: in vivo, in vitro and ...in silico! Biocomputing is not, so to speak, a novel science, but it has evolved out of its specialized niche to became an essential tool of the modern biologists. In this aspect, the arrival of WWW has had a tremendous impact for this user community. We will show in our presentations how it is now possible thanks to a multitude of servers that have been implemented in that last 18 months, to access in a seamless fashion most biomolecular databases (example: EMBL/GenBank, SWISS-PROT, PDB) as well as a number of bibliographical (eg. Medline), biomedical (eg. MIM) and images (eg. SWISS-3DIMAGE) resources. WWW is not only used by this community as a data retrieval tool, but also as a platform for software tools, some of which are running on specialized hardware. We will show, using the ExPASy server as an example, how WWW is used by this user community and how we believe that it will be used in the near future (it seems pointless to extrapolate more than a year or two in advances in such a rapidly evolving field !!)


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