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Computation as a Tool for Understanding Genomes

Richard M Karp ( University of Washington )

The genome of an organism can be viewed as the source code for the programs that control the chemical processes of the cell. The genome also contains the hereditary endowment that an organism passes to its offspring. Knowing the genome of an organism is a crucial aid in determining how it functions at the molecular level, and in tracking down the relation between genetic variation and disease. The genomes of yeast and several micro-organisms have been sequenced, and the complete sequencing of the human genome is on the horizon.

Large-scale computation is a crucial tool in molecular biology and genomics, both for sequencing a genome and for interpreting it once it has been sequenced. Applications of combinatorial optimization, pattern recognition and computational learning theory are abundant. The speaker will describe some of these applications, drawing his examples from the areas of sequencing and mapping. He will then lay out an agenda for future research, based on DNA arrays, a new experimental tool that is crucial for understanding how genes correlate with disease and for elucidating the control mechanisms that determine when genes turn on and off.

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