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Research Foci

Since the center gives every researcher the opportunity to work on the bioinformatical topic of his choice, the center is broadly poised research-wise. Nevertheless, the center has given itself a concrete scientific profile directed towards pharmaceutical and medicinal themes. This profile distinguishes CBI from other German bioinformatics centers. Shortly put, we strive for a better understanding of diseases through bioinformatics, in order to afford better and earlier diagnoses and targeted therapies.

The Figure above illustrates this research profile. All contributions to “Diagnosis” aim at extracting from omics data originating from patients information that affords inferences of the type of their disease (for instance subtype of a malignant tumor). By “omics data” we mean data covering the complete cell and pertaining to the genome (genomics, epigenomics), the genes that are expressed in the cell (transcriptomics), the proteins present in the cell (proteomics) and its metabolites (metabolomics) as well as the respective molecular interactions (interactomics). In general, the differential diagnosis of the disease is an essential prerequisite for its effective therapy. In this context, the goal is not as much to understand the mechanisms of the disease process as a rather to accurately determine the type of disease. Often this is possible without deep understanding of the disease process. The area “Target Molecules” represents our contributions to basic preclinical biomedical research and specifically to elucidating the mechanisms of disease processes. Here we again resort to omics data.

In this area the analysis of molecular networks and their dysfunction in disease is in the focus. On the basis of understanding such networks one can identify target molecules — proteins, to which still to be developed or already existing drug molecules bind in order to moderate the disease process for the benefit of the patient.

The area “Design” represents the pharmaceutically oriented part of our research. Objective is here, given a target molecule, to find appropriate small compounds binding to that molecule tightly from a large number and diversity of chemical compounds. Furthermore the selected molecules have to be promising for further refinement to become a drug. The basis for this research is proided by very large databases of pharmaceutical compounds. In this area we benefit from collaboration with the Department of Pharmacy at Saarland University and with the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saar (HIPS) which is also located on our campus.

The area “Optimization” represents the refinement of a lead compound regarding pharmaceutical properties such as specificity, bioavailability and (non-)toxicity. Finally, the area “Therapy” represents the optimization of combinations of different drugs towards the requirements of the individual patient. This area is especially pronounced in our center and represents the translational component of the research at the CBI.

Aside from these research foci the Center is also active in other areas. An example for an additional research area is biotechnology. Here microorganisms are be modified for the production of desired chemical compounds or for the optimization of foods regarding agro-economical properties.