Unit of Biodiversity & Forest Informatics, Department of Bioinformatics,Bharathiar University, Coimbatore
has Partnership with the Global Forest Information Service (GFIS), International Union of Forestry Research Organization (IUFRO), Vienna, Austria.

Bioinformatics may be defined as scientific discipline that encompasses all the aspects of biological information, viz., acquisition, processing, storage, distribution, analysis and interpretation that combine the tools ad techniques of mathematics, computer science and biology with the aim of understanding the biological significance of a variety of data.

Concept of Bioinformatics
Bioinformatics or Life Science Informatics is a young, fast developing science branch, dealing with storage, analysis integration and simulation of molecular biological data. Bioinformatics is an applied discipline that utilizes computational tools to conceptualize biology. It has emerged as a cutting edge technology and a knowledge revolution. Extraordinary growth of information technology and unprecedented advances in molecular biology and recombinant DNA techniques has ushered in the age of Bioinformatics. Human kind is on the brink of another revolution. There is no doubt that the mapping of the human genome, completed in June 2000, is one of the greatest scientific advancements in history. This breakthrough in biological research was made possible by advancements in using Bioinformatics and computational Biology. Areas such as proteomics, Genomics, combinatorial chemistry, statistics, nanotechnology, spectroscopy and structural and computational Biology will have increasing applications of Bioinformatics, in days to come.

Divisions
Bioinformatics is a multidisciplinary subject. Though only about a decade old, it has become very important for the growth of biosciences, biotechnology and the economic prosperity of nations. Three well defined divisions of Bioinformatics may be considered.

Molecular Bioinformatics
Cellular and Sub-cellular Bioinformatics
Orgasmic and Community Bioinformatics

Out of these three areas, most Bioinformatics scientists and workers practice Molecular Bioinformatics. The other two areas are more recent and are being developed. In the next 5-10 years, cellular and sub-cellular bioinformatics that will include metabolic pathways, epigenetic and neuro bioinformatics on one hand and Bioinformatics of Species Diversity, behavior, evolution and the effect of pollutants on higher as well as lower species, on the other will occupy the main stage.

Role and Relevance of Bioinformatics in Biotechnology
If sufficient data is available and all relevant components for life are identified more complex interactions can be investigated. For a holistic biological understanding of cell, simulations of cells, entire organisms and populations provide new insights. The simulation of life in silico is a future directive for bioinformatics that has started now. Bioinformatics is becoming increasingly important due to the interest of the pharmaceutical industry in genome sequencing projects. There is a vital need to harness this information for medical diagnostic and therapeutic uses and there are opportunities for other industrial applications. This field is evolving rapidly, which makes it challenging for biotechnology professionals to keep up with recent advancements. The area has evolved to deal with four distinct problems viz. (i) Handling and management of biological data, including its organization, control, linkages, analysis, and so forth. (ii) Communication among people, projects, and institutions engaged in the biological research and applications. Communication includes e-mail, file transfer, remote login, video conferencing, electronic bulletin boards and establishment of web-based information resources; (iii) organization, access, search and retrieval of biological information, documents, and literature; and (iv) analysis and interpretation of the biological data through the computational approaches including visualization, modeling & simulation, and development of algorithms for highly parallel processing of complex biological structures. The following are the thrust areas of Biotechnology, which are fully dependent on Bioinformatics: Comparative Genomics, Functional Genomics, Proteomics Structural Genomics, Pharmacogenomics and Cellomics or Systems Biology.

Importance
Bioinformatics has acquired great importance due to its application in the Genome Projects. The target of decoding the three billion base pairs of the human DNA has become achievable only through the use of various innovative techniques and methods evolved by Bioinformatics scientists. Bioinformatics has become an essential component of biotechnology based product and process development. The process of drug design and development is expensive and time consuming. The application of tools and techniques of Bioinformatics has resulted in the reduction in cost and the development cycle of the drugs. This aspect has a tremendous impact on the society. If a newly discovered drug is a life saving one, then the resulting gains are not only in terms of financial savings but also in saving the lives of several million people. Major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have set up large R & D groups in Bioinformatics.

Some Major Opportunity Areas of Bioinformatics for IT Companies Include
Improving content and utility of databases.
Developing better tools for data generation, capture and annotation.
Creating mechanisms to support effective approaches for producing robust, software that can be widely shared.
As major pharmaceutical and genome-based biotech companies invest heavily in software, Indian IT companies have a great business opportunity to offer complete database solutions to major pharmaceutical and genome based biotech companies in the world.