Richard Durbin awarded the Royal Society’s Gabor Medal
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute group leader Dr Richard Durbin has been recognised by the Royal Society “for his outstanding contributions to computational biology, and their impact across many areas of the life sciences”.
On 30 November 2017 Dr Durbin will receive the Gabor Medal, which acknowledges “distinction of interdisciplinary work between the life sciences with other disciplines”. For more than 25 years, he has developed leading-edge software tools and computational approaches that form the foundation of genomic and genetic analysis across the globe.
“I am very honoured to be recognised by the Royal Society in this way. I am proud that, working with inspiring colleagues around the world, we have helped the global research community to harness the power of genetics and genomics. We are committed to ensuring that biological data are freely available and maximally useful. It is wonderful to see how researchers are using our data and software to explore areas as diverse as evolution, inherited disease, cancer and the transmission of infections.”
Dr Richard Durbin, group leader at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
The Gabor Medal was created in memory of the Nobel Prize winning engineer Dennis Gabor FRS – the inventor of holography – whose work is now used in security for credit cards, passports and bank notes. Previous winners include Professor Ben Simons who has advanced our understanding of stem cells through applying data analysis techniques from physics, and Professor Angela McLean who uses mathematical models to understand the evolution and spread of viruses.
"From the beginnings of the Human Genome Project, when the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute had just six computers, through to today where genomic research relies on data centres employing tens of thousands of processing cores, Richard has been at the forefront of developing the computational tools and techniques essential for such endeavours. The impact of his work can be seen across all aspects of genetic enquiry and many of the projects he has led now provide the foundations on which future discoveries in the fundamentals of life and personalised healthcare will be made.”
Professor Sir Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
During his time at the Sanger Institute, Dr Durbin has been instrumental in supporting the growth of computational biology, from sequencing the nematode worm in 1998 and the first human genome in 2002 to exploring genomic variation at scale, first by analysing 1000 and then 10,000 genomes. One example that grew from his team’s work is the Ensembl genome browser which is now a mainstay of global, accessible genomic analysis. The system, which brings together genome sequence, genetic information, variation information, biological information and disease information is now hosted and maintained by Campus neighbours EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute.