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The Center for Bioinformatics Saar (CBI) engages in research and teaching in a highly modern area of science and is a model institution for interdisciplinary research on the campus of Saarland University (UdS).

Bioinformatics or computational biology — we use the two terms interchangeably — is an interdisciplinary scientific field with contributions from biology and informatics, but also from medicine, chemistry, pharmaceutics, physics, and mathematics. The object of bioinformatics is the application of computer technology to the configuration of high-tech experiments in the life sciences as well as "especially" to the analysis of the voluminous and complex data sets that are generated by such experiments.

The first draft of the sequence of the human genome 15 years ago was a milestone of biology. The biology field has been transformed from a discipline at a mostly descriptive or qualitative level to a quantitative science. However, inferring biological processes in living organisms from genome sequences has proven to be considerably more difficult than initially expected.

Living organisms, all of which have developed evolutionarily, are highly complex and are not designed to be easily understood. High-dimensional genetic and molecular-biological data that afford a deeper understanding of the complex biological processes can only be analyzed with the aid of the computer. Thus, in the past two decades, bioinformatics has become an essential part of the life sciences and biotechnology.

At the core of the Center for Bioinformatics Saar is an interdisciplinary team of scientists who jointly work towards the following goals:

1. Excellent research in the area of bioinformatics, pertaining both to the computer-based methodology and to its application in biology, pharmaceutics, and medicine — with direct impact on the gain of knowledge in these areas,

2. Publication of research results in the high-ranking international journals,

3. Development and deployment of freely accessible software for practical use in the life sciences,

4. Translation of central research results into clinical and biotechnological practice, either jointly with existing companies or as startups, in order to support patient health,

5. Education and training of excellent young bioinformaticians for science and service in the areas of biotechnology, pharmaceutics, and medicine,

6. To serve as a beacon in the area of bioinformatics and as a model for inter-faculty interdisciplinary collaboration at the Saarbrücken location,

7. To strengthen bioinformatics at the national and international levels.

The Center was founded in 2001, the year in which the first draft of the human genome was published, and a period in which the essential role of bioinformatics in the life sciences became apparent. The founding of the Center as one of five bioinformatics centers in Germany was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within a special program that responded to this development.

In the final evaluation at the end of the DFG funding period, which terminated in 2007, the CBI was declared best research strength among the five bioinformatics centers. Thanks to the sustained support of Saarland University and the Max Planck Society as well as several large third-party money projects and industry collaborations acquired by members of the Center, the CBI was able to maintain and extend its research strength. Today the Center boasts a balanced research profile with contributions from Faculty 2 (medicine), Faculty 6 (mathematics/informatics), and Faculty 8 (chemistry, pharmaceutics, life and material sciences).

Each of the three faculties contributes one lab chaired by a full professor to the Center. In addition, the Center comprises several junior professorships and junior research groups. Furthermore, one department of the Max Planck Institute for Informatics is concerned exclusively with computational biology. Additional partners include the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Technology (IBMT) in Sankt Ingbert, and the Helmholtz Center for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS).

Intensive collaboration among these research labs comprising CBI is at the heart of life in the Center. Especially impactful research results from the Center can be found in the areas of epigenetics, cancer diagnosis, analysis of viral drug resistance, and in the development of drugs, especially of antibacterial compounds.

Teaching is an important aspect of the Center. The Center offers bachelor's and master's degree programs in bioinformatics, the latter being taught exclusively in English. In the 15 years of its existence, the Center has brought forth 181 bachelor's graduates(70 women) and 156 master's graduates (48 women).

A large part of the research in the Center is performed by doctoral students and postdoctoral scientists. Since its foundation, the Center has graduated 61 PhD students (15 women). Two thirds of the graduates have continued their careers in academia, and about one third have gone into industry. Furthermore, the Center has produced 16 professors who teach and perform research at universities in Germany and abroad. In this way, the CBI has placed its mark on the national and international bioinformatics scene not only through its research but also through the excellent young scientists it has educated and trained.