The potential of applying bioinformatics in the risk assessment of genes that lack a function annotation

Research reports | 10.07.2012 | CGM 2012-03

Starting point for the risk assessment of activities with GMOs is knowledge about the function of the cloned sequence. This knowledge is obtained from data on the function in the organism from which the sequence originates. Novel developments in the field of genetic engineering (synthetic biology, ’genomics’) lead to the use of sequences with unknown function. In collaboration with the Dutch GMO office, COGEM has commissioned a project that investigates to what extent the use of bioinformatics has a benefit for the risk assessment of these kinds of activities.

The resulting report provides a critical review on useful algorithms and databases that can be applied for the to elucidation of the probable function of a yet uncharacterized sequence. In addition, the report gives practical guidance on the set up of a bioinformatic analysis.

The field of bioinformatics is complex and rapidly changing. For bioinformatic analyses many databases are used, which are available on the internet. However, their quality is not guaranteed. COGEM emphasizes that a proper analysis requires reliable databases. An international consensus on the quality to which bioinformatic analyses and databases has to meet would be welcome for both applicants and risk assessors.

The COGEM research report can be found under the ‘download publication’ button and the accompanying policy report can be found here.

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