The Bioinformatics Institute Ghent From Nucleotides to Networks (BIG N2N) is a center of excellence in state-of-the-art bioinformatical tools and methods with applications in the fields of Sustainable Agriculture and Successful Ageing, recognized worldwide as key challenges for a sustainable society.
It was established as Multidisciplinary Research Partnership by Ghent University in 2011 as part of the strategic spearhead research policy plan promoting excellence in research, selected on the basis of the established expertise and the potential to become world leader in the field. Because of the growing importance of bioinformatics, computational biology, and systems biology in the life sciences, bioinformatics was one of the topics that were selected. In 2015 it was recognized as 'Bioinformatics Institute Ghent From Nucleotides to Networks'.
Recent technological advances have dramatically changed our view on life science research. Huge amounts of system-wide data such as transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome data are being produced on an almost daily basis, while whole genome sequences are being determined at an ever increasing pace. The accumulation of all these data has created a huge need for highly trained scientists, with very different backgrounds, to collect, store, integrate and analyse all these data using advanced ICT infrastructures and tools. In addition, genes and proteins are no longer studied as isolated entities but as part of complex regulatory and interacting biological networks. More and more, mathematical models are generated that provide a systems-based understanding of how such networks are affected in response to changes in their environment. Computational and statistical modeling methods are being developed to discover new and emergent properties that cannot be detected or understood by the more classic reductionistic approaches. Such systems biology approaches enable us to better understand the entirety of processes that happen in a biological system on multiple scales of organization, from genomes to cells and from organs to organisms.
Both the fields of bioinformatics and systems biology are booming. An important trend that becomes clear is the need for computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, statisticians, bioinformaticians, molecular biologists, and systems biologists to join forces and get better organized. BIG N2N brings together these expertises of 9 excellent research groups from 5 different faculties (Sciences, Bioscience Engineering, Engineering and Architecture, Medicine and Health Sciences and Pharmaceutical Sciences). In this very interdisciplinary network scientists will work closely together to (1) deal with the ever-growing avalanche of data, (2) serve an ever-demanding community of molecular experimental biologists, bioengineers, and medical doctors, and (3) to address the bigger questions in (molecular) biology through integrated systems biology approaches.