The director-general of the Sheda Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), Prof. Paul Onyenekwe has stressed that the acquisition of bioinformatics skills is now a necessity for researchers and professionals in many fields – not only in the biological or chemical sciences but also in engineering, agriculture, data science and technology, public and community health as well as environmental sciences.
He made this assertion during the opening ceremony of a five-day hands-on workshop on bioinformatics for molecular and pharmaceutical biotechnology organised by the Biotechnology Advanced Research Centre (BARC), SHESTCO, in conjunction with Bridge Biotech at the complex facility in Sheda, Kwali, Abuja.
Onyenekwe described bioinformatics as an interdisciplinary field that applies tools of computation and analysis to capture and interpret biological data, stating that it is essential for the management of data in modern biosciences.
He added that the human genome project and sequencing projects in other organisms have generated enormous biological data, adding that the analysis and interpretation of these data are being managed by the emerging field of bioinformatics.
“The bio-data technology has enormous expression in different fields, including pharmaceutical biotechnology among many others. The pharmaceutical industry is applying the knowledge of bioinformatics, and tools in computational chemistry, predictive modelling, machine learning and artificial intelligence in shortening drug discovery processes, thus reducing the cost of research and time to develop new drugs and vaccines.
“We can all appreciate the science of bioinformatics from the development of the COVID-19 vaccine development within the short time during the pandemic. This was possible due to the available data from sequencing of the viral, DNA and known interactions and binding capabilities of different bio-therapeutics against targeted receptors of the Coronavirus,” he said.
The SHESTCO boss restated that the complex intends to operate an internationally accessible and comprehensive database in science and technology for Nigeria and organise well-structured manpower training to meet the growing needs of Nigeria in the areas of high and emerging technologies.
In his remarks, the director, BARC, Dr. Shola Odusanya explained that the main goal of bioinformatics is to enable the discovery of new, biological insights, as well as create a global perspective from which unifying principles in biotechnology and molecular biology can be discerned.
He urged participants to fully utilise the opportunity of the hands-on training to upgrade their capacities, urging them to form a community to continue practising what they have leant and continue to work with groups of people who are like-minded for the benefit of their various institutions and the nation at large.
In his goodwill message, the pioneer director, BARC, Prof. Godwin Ogbadu commended the centre for organising the workshop, saying training and retraining is the life wire of research.
He added that the emphasis of the workshop, which is on intensive physical contact training on bioinformatics for molecular biology and pharmaceutical biotechnology is apt.
Ogbadu appealed to participants to make maximum use of the training and continue to build on it with constant training to make an impact on their various institutions.
“Advances in bioinformatics require sound programme in ‘omics technologies’. In this wise I implore you to get involved and remain connected, even after the workshop by pooling your resources together for result-oriented research outputs,” he added.