The next time your research takes you outside your field of expertise, you might consider looking for a core lab to help move your project forward. Core labs are fantastic resources because they centralize experts in specific skill areas. Scientists working at core labs are both highly skilled technicians and research experts. In fact, many of the fields covered by core lab resources straddle the line between being techniques to be mastered, and areas of active scientific research in their own right. This is evident in the way some core facilities are structured; they help others with research projects, while simultaneously carrying out independent research of their own.
Some relative newcomers to the core lab scene befitting this description are bioinformatics resource centers. With the explosion of genetic information available through sequencing and microarrays, scientists rely on computers to crunch the raw data and help mine out interesting new discoveries. Having bioinformatics specialists help with data mining and data interpretation is becoming critical to scientists who are not experts in bioinformatics. As such, it’s a prime resource for universities to establish as a core facility. Examples of institutes with bioinformatics core facilities include Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and University of Texas San Antonio.
By involving bioinformatics experts, scientists can be guided through computer programs that they don’t have the time to learn. They can have more confidence in their interpretation of the data. More accurate data interpretation may lead to cost savings as people follow fewer false leads. And as bioinformatics core facilities expand, data reporting in the literature and reproducibility might both improve.
Bioinformatics core facilities can benefit not just the academics at their home institutes, but also outside scientists. Pharmaceutical companies are especially interested in capitalizing on bioinformatics knowledge. For small pharmaceutical companies, such resources make it possible to capitalize on bioinformatics without a dedicated in-house staff.