What is Genomics?
By definition, the study of genomics has only bec ome possible in the last decade as the entire genomes of organisms were being deciphered. From its humble beginnings, the field of genomics began in earnest in 1995 with the sequence of the first free-living organism, a bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae containing 1.8 million base pairs of DNA. Since then an explosion of sequence information has emerged from organisms as diverse as bacteria, yeast, flies, mice and plants. In April 2003, the largest and most ambitious project to date—the human genome—was finally complete, with all 3 billion base pairs spelled out. This is clearly a landmark scientific and technological achievement, but in many ways, it is merely the beginning of a long road of discovery that lies ahead.
Genomics aims to make sense of all this raw sequence data. We can now begin to ask questions that were never possible before: What are all the genes turned on in cancer cells that are off in normal cells? How many targets does a particular drug or herbicide have? What are all the genes that make mice different from humans? Why do certain drugs work for some patients but not others? Answers to these and many other important questions can be discovered as vast amounts of sequence data are analyzed and interpreted by genomic researchers from many different basic and applied disciplines.