​​The Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

The Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at Aga Khan University promotes analysis of data generated from various omics such as 16s rRNA and shotgun metagenomics, genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics and ensures that storage space and computational power is available.

​In Pakistan bioinformatics is in a nascent phase. Its struggle is marked by:

  • A lack of primary ‘source data’ as generation is costly
  • Insufficient infrastructure to support the high computational power to analyze these data, and;
  • A lack of trained personnel
At Aga Khan University, we have tried to systematically address these deficiencies. 

The journey started with the establishment of a biorepository of 2,500 pregnant women and their newborns between 2014 and 2017 as part of the Alliance for Maternal and Newborn Health Improvement (AMANHI) study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This landmark project established that a high-quality biorepository can very well be created in a low-middle-income country setting with the necessary zeal and commitment.

Additional funding was received to create systems for in-house utilization of these biospecimens and generate data that is important and useful in the local and regional context. This required strengthening existing laboratory capacities and setting afresh a bioinformatics infrastructure. The bioinformatics component further consisted of hardware components and qualified personnel. Dr. Fyezah Jehan, Dr. M Imran Nisar, and their team have since acquired more than $4 million in funding. 

Our external funding and support from the Office of the Dean makes it possible for us to create a workforce capable of critically analyzing and drawing meaningful conclusions from the data.

The Centre has been keeping an eye on the evolving SARS-CoV-2 variants and is taking part in the genomic surveillance of other pathogens. We are collaborating with clinical diagnostics at the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine to develop in-house pipelines for variant testing. 

Our approach

AKU has made biomedical ​research a priority. At CBCB, we believe that cutting-edge medical science research operates at the intersection of physics, biochemistry, mathematics, statistics, engineering, automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.  Bioinformatics addresses the computational needs of life sciences research. 

​​Together with other CITRIC centers, the CBCB creates a shared space where research questions affecting the health of people in low- and middle-income countries can be addressed with a multidisciplinary approach. We plan to strengthen the physical infrastructure, train more people and bring in new research grants to create jobs. Medical College-wide projects centred on pathogen genomics, microbiomes, and cancer stand to benefit. ​

​​The team

​Our team has received training in metagenomics research at the Chen Zuckerberg Biohub/Chen Zuckerberg Initiative in San Francisco

Dr Imran Nisar, director
Dr Waqasuddin Khan, co-director
Dr Fyezah Jehan, Associate Professor
Dr Zahra Hasan, Professor
Dr Najeeha Iqbal, Associate Professor
Dr Javaria Ashraf, post-doctoral candidate
Dr Syeda Rehana Zia, post-doctoral candidate
Samiah Kanwar, research specialist
Aqsa Khalid, research specialist
Safina Abdul Razzak,​ research coordinator
Umar Amjid, research associate