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How Computers Are Changing Biology

28 April 2014 by NCCMMS

How Computers Are Changing Biology

May 2014 Communications of the ACM

It just makes sense.  At no other time in our history have we had such easy access to so much data - data that is reflective of both the individual and the population.  This fact is true at the sub-individual level - our own biology.  There is ample opportunity to discover new and exciting things about what makes us tick, biologically, using computer modeling and data analytics.

From the article:

It is no secret that computer modeling is changing science. The ability to extract meaningful information from huge data sets and build sophisticated models is altering everything from astronomy to quantum physics. Yet, perhaps no discipline is witnessing more tangible benefits from computer modeling than biology.

"There is an incredible amount of valuable information embedded in biological systems," observes Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor of structural biology. "Precise molecules and powerful computers are in many ways made for each other."

Computer modeling allows researchers to cycle through a mind-bending array of scenarios, while simulating how the body will react to differing types and levels of medication. Over time, as more and better data is plugged into the model and the computer keys on relationships and correlations, the model presumably becomes more accurate. This modeling approach complements traditional biological research methods and has the potential to reduce costs, speed development, and improve the efficacy of medications.

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