Genomics is the branch of science that studies the genome – the genetic material, code or blue print, of a human or other species (animal, plant, microbe) – to better understand the workings of the organism, and what happens when certain genes interact with each other and the environment.
Projects we support using this approach are typically holistic, systematic, and high-throughput:
- They are holistic in scope, isolating or developing information about all of a particular type or category of cellular constituents (e.g., the DNA comprising an organism’s full complement of genetic information – the genome – or all the proteins encoded by that DNA – the proteome).
- They are systematic in method, stressing standard procedures, acceptable and well-defined levels of error and uncertainty, and predictable cost and delivery time.
- They adopt or develop high-throughput tools, often with use of computers and mechanical automation, which enable systematic approaches and lead to comprehensive outputs in relatively near-term time frames and at reasonable cost.
The first and most familiar example of genomics research was the international Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, which determined and deposited in international, publicly available, and on-line data banks the complete DNA sequence of the human genome – hence the name ‘genomics.’ The project has since inspired a number of other ‘omics’ projects (e.g., proteomics, metabolomics), which deal with different molecules or molecular interactions but share a holistic, systematic, and high-throughput approach. ‘Genomics’ often serves as a generic term for all such projects and strategies.
The growth of genomics and the resulting boom in development of associated technology have created a tremendous global impact by increasing the pace and success rates of research in the life sciences. This acceleration has in turn underwritten many valuable socio-economic applications, ranging from determining individuals’ risk for developing certain diseases to facilitating drug discovery, from developing disease-, insect-, and drought-resistant crops to producing more nutritious foods and healthier farm animals, and from finding new ways to heal the environment to improving understanding and preservation of biodiversity.
Genomics research is enabling rapid progress in research in the life sciences and in biotechnology – and Ontario scientists are leading the way.