Cheminformatics and Bioinformatics
The development of a drug is a long and labor-intensive process. Cheminformatics and bioinformatics can help make this process faster and more accurate.
The two fields work together to advance medical research and develop new drugs. To learn more about how these technologies are helping to save lives, explore Northeastern’s master’s in bioinformatics program.
What is cheminformatics?
Cheminformatics is the application of information technology to chemical research and development. Cheminformaticians construct information systems that help chemists make sense of the massive amount of data produced in chemical experiments and provide tools for processing and analyzing that data.
The fields of chemistry and computer science contribute to cheminformatics by providing the basic knowledge and principles of molecular structure and reactions, while data analysis techniques from statistics and machine learning empower cheminformaticians to uncover patterns and make predictions. Together, these tools and methods allow researchers to explore chemical space, predict properties of molecules, and design new compounds with enhanced precision.
In drug discovery, cheminformatics is used in high-throughput screening (HTS) approaches for compound selection, virtual library generation, virtual HTS, HTS data mining, and prediction of lead compound biological activity and absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion (ADMET). It can also be used to design and synthesize novel chemical structures based on reference molecules with known structures and properties.
What is bioinformatics?
Bioinformatics is a field of information technology that focuses on the collection, storage, analysis and manipulation of biological and chemical data. This data typically includes information on small molecule formulas, structures, spectra and activities (biological or industrial).
Chemists often use computer science to help with tasks like defining standardized ways of representing chemical structure data in databases, such as using the XML-based Chemical Markup Language (SMILE). In pharmaceutical drug discovery, chemists screen large combinatorial databases for molecules that can provide a specific therapeutic effect. Cheminformatics tools can help them analyze these massive datasets to make faster, more accurate decisions.
In addition, cheminformatics can also be used to predict the pharmacokinetic properties of compounds, such as absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion. This helps researchers understand how a compound might perform in the human body and identify any potential interactions or toxicity concerns. It can also be used to help design experimental protocols for high-throughput screening. This saves a great deal of time and money by allowing researchers to focus on the most promising compounds.
What are the similarities between cheminformatics and bioinformatics?
Despite similar definitions, bioinformatics and cheminformatics have very distinct goals. The former is concerned with the collection, classification, manipulation, analysis, recovery and storage of biological data using computer technology. This includes DNA sequences, proteins, biological statistics, and the results of scientific studies.
The latter is focused on collecting, storing, examining and reorganizing chemical information using computer technology. This information may include small molecule formulas, structures, characteristics and spectra, as well as their activities (biological or industrial).
Both fields are attempting to solve common problems such as the identification of chemical and biological causes of toxic effects. They are also developing methods to automatically extract new knowledge from existing databases. This is done by employing algorithms such as Harris-Hawks optimizer, cuckoo search and chaotic maps. These new algorithms balance exploration and exploitation phases, as well as avoid premature convergence. This is an important development, as it can reduce the time required for analyzing large datasets. This is particularly important in applications such as homology and similarity tools, drug design and phylogenetics.
What are the differences between cheminformatics and bioinformatics?
The fields of bioinformatics and cheminformatics have a very close relationship as both help to develop and improve modern technologies used in drug discovery. This includes high-throughput screening and pharmaceutical profiling. This has made it possible to bring drugs from the laboratory bench to the pharmacy shelf more rapidly and efficiently.
The relatively new field of cheminformatics (sometimes referred to as chemical informatics or molecular informatics) is focused on the collection, storage, analysis and manipulation of chemical information, typically small molecule formulas, structures, properties and spectra. Its roots are in a number of more established areas of chemistry such as chemical information, chemometrics and computational chemistry.
Cheminformatics strategies have already emerged as vehicles to aid the drug discovery process in which libraries of compounds are evaluated for their biological activity and therapeutic potential. In addition, cheminformatic tools are also being used to identify correlations between gene sequences and diseases, and to predict protein function from amino acid sequences.