Prize Categories: Genomics, Proteomics and Systems Biology

Scientific research areas for 2019 prize awards

Each year the Science and SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists focuses on four important fields of life science research to select winners for the annual awards. The Grand Prize winner can be from any of the four categories, and additional winners are chosen from each of the remaining three life science categories.

Genomics, Proteomics and Systems Biology is one of this year’s categories.

Research in this category focuses on genomics, proteomics, integrative omics and systems biology approaches to facilitate comprehensive understanding of living cells, organisms and species.


What are Genomics, Proteomics and Systems Biology?

Genomics is the study of all the genes that make up the human genome – the double-stranded DNA helix that defines the human body. This sequence of chemical base pairs is a kind of map of the genetic code that humans inherit. Studying the gene variations provides insight into disease management and environmental impacts on human health.

Proteomics is the study of the structures and functions of the entire set of proteins that are made, used and changed by the human body. The human genome contains about 21,000 protein-encoding genes, and each human gene can be the blueprint for creating hundreds of different proteins. While proteomics generally refers to the large-scale experimental analysis of proteins, in the clinical sense, it refers to using technologies such as protein purification and mass spectrometry on tissues such as blood.

Proteomics and genomics present possibilities for practical applications in areas such as personalized medicine, predictive medicine and targeted medicine. Proteomics, in particular, holds great promise for the future diagnosis and treatment of cancer. For example, by searching for “biomarkers” in the proteins of tissues and bodily fluids, scientists and clinicians can identify cells at risk for cancer growth.

Systems biology has been responsible for very important developments in the science environmental sustainability as well as in human health. Systems Biology takes a holistic approach to deciphering the complexity of biological systems that starts from the understanding that the networks that form the whole of living organisms are more than the sum of their parts. It integrates many scientific disciplines – biology, computer science, engineering, bioinformatics, physics to name a few – to predict how systems change over time and under varying conditions, and to develop solutions to the world’s most pressing health and environmental issues.

Some tools of proteomics

Technologies used to advance the understanding of protein biochemistry include:

Mass Spectrometry – an evolving technology that allows scientists to detect and quantify proteins in a complex biological matrix. This process is very precise, distinguishing proteins that differ in composition by a single hydrogen atom, the smallest atom.

Protein Microarrays – these are powerful tools for capturing and measuring proteins in a high throughput fashion. A protein microarray typically consists of a small piece of glass or plastic coated with thousands of “capture reagents” (molecules that can “grab” specific proteins). This technology allows scientists to isolate and study many potential biomarker proteins.

Nanotechnologies – these microscopic technologies (a nanometer is approximately 1/80,0000 the width of a human hair) can be used for the targeted delivery of drugs, energy-based therapeutics (such as heat or radiation) and imaging contrast agents. They can also be used in biosensors to measure minute quantities of biomarkers in biological fluids.

Bioinformatics  is a form of research that uses data modeling and database design combined with gene and protein expression analysis and predictions to model and analyze biological systems using software tools.