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Functional genomics and systems biology

Genomics; bioinformatics; proteomics; epigenetics; systems biology


Functional genomics aims to define gene function, often making use of the vast amount of information now available through high-throughput experimental methods for mapping and sequencing genomes and approaches for characterising genes' function, their organisation and expression under different conditions.

There have been a number of advances in the increasingly important field of epigenetics. Epigenetic modulation of adult neurogenesis via an imprint switch has been demonstrated while specific epigenetic chromatin signatures in introns and exons have been discovered and epigenetic mechanisms preventing transgenerational retrotransposition in plants have been elucidated. 

There are a number of international  bioinformatics projects involving members of the School. For example modENCODE, which is to define functional elements in model organism genomes and BLUEPRINT, for the cell-specific quantification of genome-epigenome variation. Integration of genome data for multiple organisms uses the Intermine platform and a number of other model organism databases are coordinated  here. A platform Phenomenet, for integrating phenotype ontologies,  has been developed. This uses formal definitions of ontology classes to generate equivalences between phenotypes in species-specific ontologies.

Work in this theme involves many collaborations across departments and schools, some of which have a focus in the Cambridge Systems Biology Centre. The Centre helps with the integration of the large-scale experimental technologies that facilitate systems research. Examples include the identification of high-flux-control genes of yeast using a system-wide approach. Research has been assisted by acquisition of new equipment, the development of novel proteomics methods in the Cambridge Centre for Proteomics, and by other research facilities in the School including Cambridge Genomics Services.