The 2009 annual conference of the Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Network (APBioNet), Asia's oldest bioinformatics organisation dating back to 1998, was organized as the 8th International Conference on Bioinformatics (InCoB), Sept. 7-11, 2009 at Biopolis, Singapore. Besides bringing together scientists from the field of bioinformatics in this region, InCoB has actively engaged clinicians and researchers from the area of systems biology, to facilitate greater synergy between these two groups. InCoB2009 followed on from a series of successful annual events in Bangkok (Thailand), Penang (Malaysia), Auckland (New Zealand), Busan (South Korea), New Delhi (India), Hong Kong and Taipei (Taiwan), with InCoB2010 scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 26-28, 2010. The Workshop on Education in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (WEBCB) and symposia on Clinical Bioinformatics (CBAS), the Singapore Symposium on Computational Biology (SYMBIO) and training tutorials were scheduled prior to the scientific meeting, and provided ample opportunity for in-depth learning and special interest meetings for educators, clinicians and students. We provide a brief overview of the peer-reviewed bioinformatics manuscripts accepted for publication in this supplement, grouped into thematic areas. In order to facilitate scientific reproducibility and accountability, we have, for the first time, introduced minimum information criteria for our pubilcations, including compliance to a Minimum Information about a Bioinformatics Investigation (MIABi). As the regional research expertise in bioinformatics matures, we have delineated a minimum set of bioinformatics skills required for addressing the computational challenges of the "-omics" era.