Cleber Rodrigues de Freitas

BioME is a bioinformatics initiative created in 2016 in the UFRN, Natal - Brazil. However, the history of BioME is directly linked to UFRN's efforts to recruit important leaders with expertise in the field of Bioinformatics and training of personnel; in the establishment of the Digital Metropolis Institute (IMD) and its innovative model, and the creation of the Postgraduate Program in Bioinformatics.

In 2011, the establishment of the Brain Institute and the IMD, motivated the recruitment of group leaders working at the interface of computer and life sciences. Since then, IMD has been acting on the frontier of basic research and innovation, promoting a culture of entrepreneurship, as well as research and technological innovation. In 2012, Prof. Sandro José de Souza, one of the pioneers of the area in Brazil and with a history of success in training human resources in Bioinformatics, was recruited by the Brain Institute. More recently, four other bioinformaticians were recruited by UFRN. This group of newcomers joined other professors already established at UFRN, who are exponents in their fields.

The approval of the "Cancer Systemic Biology" project (BSC) under CAPES’ Computational Biology call (051/2013) also contributed to define bioinformatics as a priority within UFRN. The main objective of the BSC network is to promote computational biology and system biology in Brazil, and is coordinated by Prof. Sandro J. de Souza, and is formed by twenty professors/researchers in teams at UFRN, UFMG, USP and the Antonio Prudente Foundation, as well as foreign researchers at the University of California San Diego, University of Heidelberg and University of Oslo.

In early 2014, discussions between Prof. Sandro José de Souza and Prof. José Ivonildo do Rêgo (director of IMD and former rector of UFRN) led to the establishment of an emphasis on Bioinformatics in the Bachelor's degree in Information Technology (BTI). By mid-2015, after internal discussions in UFRN involving professors from several departments including Prof. José Ivonildo do Rêgo, Prof. Edna Maria da Silva (at the time, pro-rector of post-graduation) and Prof. Ângela Cruz (dean of UFRN), the Postgraduate Program in Bioinformatics at UFRN was established. As part of the Digital Metropolis Institute, the program has the following research lines: Genomics; Systems Biology; and Development of product and processes. Its master and doctorate courses began their activities in 2016 with a CAPES score of 5 (of maximum 7).

Finally, in 2016 the Bioinformatics Multidisciplinary Environment (BioME) was created with the mission to promote bioinformatics at the regional and national scenario, acting in four different levels.

(1) At the teaching level, BioME professors/researchers work at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels with the objective to build human resources highly skilled in bioinformatics, for both the academic field and the productive/industrial sectors.

(2) At the research level, multidisciplinary groups involved with BioME produce cutting- edge bioinformatics science applied to several areas such as: cancer biology, systems modeling, systems biology, genomics, proteomics, molecular evolution, structural bioinformatics, etc.

(3) At the services sector, a multi-user technical center provides bioinformatics and data analysis services to both academic and biotechnology companies.

(4) At the corporate program, seeking to foster productive interaction with the biotechnology industry and extending to the society the knowledge produced in the university.