Videos developed by the Bioinformatics Core at Mayo Clinic show how the core supports Mayo Clinic's Cancer Center and Center for Individualized Medicine.

Mayo Clinic Bioinformatics Core: A Virtual Tour

The Bioinformatics Core at Mayo Clinic provides cutting-edge bioinformatics services and collaborative research support to Mayo Clinic investigators engaged in omics studies that impact patients with cancer.

The Bioinformatics Core Shared Resource, or BISR, was created specifically to serve the needs of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center members. Its mission is to assist investigators with the management, analysis and interpretation of genomic, proteomic and metabolomic data. The BISR staff has been quick to adjust to changing trends in genomics technology as demand for array-based genomics has decreased and a need for next-generation sequencing, data pre-processing and analysis has surged.

Without us, investigators would have a really hard time to manage the quantity, the amount of data that is now generated by those new sequencing technologies.

Working in a close partnership with ten analysts from the Research IT department, BISR has developed bioinformatics workflows and systems to streamline the pre-processing of sequencing data and to effectively manage Cancer Center investigator's projects. Over the past five years, the Bioinformatics Core has worked on more than 775 projects for 121 Cancer Center investigators. BISR faculty are providing collaborative support to investigators in the lymphoma, prostate, pancreatic, breast and ovarian cancer SPOREs.

A lot of the projects are translational, so there is a lot of hope that those projects will eventually impact patient care, and that I guess is a drive for a lot of people in the group.

The team is composed of 40 full-time bioinformatics experts located at all three Mayo Clinic sites in Minnesota, Florida and Arizona, offering a full suite of cutting-edge bioinformatics service lines.

Understanding your genome

Jean-Pierre A. Kocher, Ph.D., director of the Bioinformatics Core, explains how data analyses help clinicians develop individualized tests and treatments for patients.

Bioinformatics is part of a large community of experts in technology like next-generation sequencing, experts in computer science, that help us develop robust systems to manage the data and run our workflows for analysis. And also a community of clinical experts whom we work with to try to tailor our analysis to answer the questions that are relevant to them.

Today we have the technology that enables us to look at the disease at the molecular level. We can basically sequence everything and ask: Tell me the all the variation, even the one I never knew about, that you can see in that genome. When today you go to the clinic and you ask for a clinical test, you get potentially a number into a spreadsheet or into a document that is given to you. But actually there is an entire team of experts that have worked in the background to generate that number. And it's a little bit the same for bioinformatics, or for the people who are running those next-generation sequencers. They will be working in the background, will generate the data, will analyze the data and eventually will try to shrink, summarize those data to become actionable information by a clinician.

This technology platform generates a lot of data, and we have to extract from these data the information that is really relevant for clinical application. So we have to look at what are the changes that we can see between a normal cell and a cancer cell for example in the context of cancer. And all that requires analytical expertise to be able to provide this information back to a clinician for them then to design new strategies to help curing a patient. The possibility of discovering new variants that are related to a disease are there. And that's where the field is now making more and more progress.