Sequencing DNA has become easier and less expensive, leading to rapidly expanding genome databases and a better understanding of life in general. Yet while a genome sequence contains important clues about the history and characteristics of an organism, the data generated by current sequencing technologies does not emerge in an easily interpreted form. Instead, results are often produced as small fragments, akin to the words or phrases that constitute a more meaningful but jumbled recipe or description. Moreover, the definitions of many of the words and phrases found in DNA sequence information are often not clear. Genomes, like recipes, are easier to understand if they are written in a familiar language, laid out in logical order, and supported with helpful images.
Many scientists today have difficulty processing their sequence data into a form suitable for their research applications and look to bioinformaticians for help. However, this reliance on others is inefficient, particularly in the field of microbial genomics for which the pool of skilled bioinformaticians is small.
Drs. Paul Stothard of the University of Alberta and Gary Van Domselaar of the Public Health Agency of Canada are overseeing the development of Proksee, a software system that will allow researchers to convert raw bacterial sequence data into high-quality, richly described, and easily interpreted whole-genome assemblies (i.e., microbial life recipes). These powerful analytical resources will be freely available to all researchers, including those working in small-sized Canadian companies without the expertise or resources to transform raw sequencing data into a meaningful form.
By helping Canada’s scientific community translate DNA sequence information into new insights into the biology of important bacterial species, the sophisticated and user-friendly Proksee platform will support broad-ranging scientific discoveries and innovations, including the development of safer and healthier foods, new techniques for dealing with pollution, and new methods of manufacturing valuable products.