Bioinformatics for Health Research

Award Month: 
May - June, 2012

The Bioinformatics for Health Research program involves a collection of interdisciplinary research projects that promote student training in this area and facilitates interactions between researchers from different backgrounds in the computational, biological and other related sciences. This novel program is the first of its kind in Canada. It involves a combination of 4-8 month subprojects, longer graduate student thesis projects, and a series of meetings to facilitate interaction. All research is centered around developing novel bioinformatics approaches to improve human health. There is a focus on new algorithm development for analysis of genomic (all genes in an organism) and proteomic (all proteins in an organism) data from humans, model animals, and infectious disease microorganisms. Students in this program come from diverse backgrounds in the applied and natural sciences and it is felt that only through frequent interaction with each other will these students truly be able to benefit from their interdisciplinary knowledge.

About Project Leader: Dr. Fiona Brinkman

Dr. Fiona Brinkman is a Professor in Bioinformatics and Genomics (Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry) at Simon Fraser University and is a leader in the area of pathogen bioinformatics. Dr. Brinkman's current research interests center around improving understanding of how pathogens and pathogenicity evolve and improving computational methods that aid the development of new vaccines, drugs and diagnostics for infectious diseases. She is noted for developing PSORTb, the most precise method available for computational protein subcellular localization prediction and the first computational method that exceeded the accuracy of some common high-throughput laboratory methods for such subcellular localization analysis. This method aids the prediction of cell surface and secreted proteins in a bacterial cell that may be suitable drug targets, vaccine components or diagnostics. She has also developed bioinformatics methods that aid the more accurate identification of genomic islands and orthologs. Her research has provided new insights into the evolution of pathogens and the role that horizontal gene transfer and genomic islands play. She was involved in the Pseudomonas Genome Project  and is the coordinator of the Pseudomonas Genome Database, a database of Pseudomonas species genomic data and associated annotations that is continually updated.