Richard Durbin, Deputy Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Elected to the Royal Society
The Royal Society announced today (28 May 2004) the election of 44 new Fellows - experts in the fields of science, engineering and technology. The Royal Society counts amongst its members 65 Nobel Laureates.
Dr Durbin is a leading expert in bioinformatics - using computers and software to understand biological process. Ten years ago, the largest available genome sequences were viruses with a few hundred thousand DNA bases. Today, we have many genomes - including human - that contain billions of bases. Sophisticated computational tools are needed to help researchers make use of all this information. A leading example is the Ensembl genome browser, developed by Durbin's team, which receives approaching 1 million hits each week.
Dr Durbin has also led teams developing the next generation of bioinformatics tools - resources to understand and classify protein structure. Biological effects of changes in DNA sequence are exerted through change in protein properties: making sense of protein structures is an essential component of understanding disease.
"It is a great honour to be elected to the Royal Society, whose fellowship includes so many exceptional scientists from the UK and abroad. What I love about science is working together with great people. All my work has been done in collaboration, and I believe my election reflects as much on my colleagues at the Sanger Institute and elsewhere as on myself."
Dr Richard Durbin, Deputy Director of The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Dr Durbin is a graduate in mathematics from Cambridge University and one of the founder members of the Sanger Institute. He has also held carried out research at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and at Harvard and Stanford Universities in the USA.
"Without bioinformatics - harnessing the power of computers to understand biology - genomic science would not be the force it is today to drive new biomedical development. Richard has led the invention of computer tools that allow us to manage the massive amounts of information that institutions such as the Sanger Institute produce."
Professor Allan Bradley, FRS, Director of the Sanger Institute
"Richard's vision of what might be possible in unlocking genomes has underpinned many of our achievements. It is typical of him that he acknowledges the contributions of his colleagues."
The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has played a key role in sequencing of the human genome and ensuring the results are freely available to all in the public domain. It also leads projects to sequence and analyse genomes of other organisms. These resources are key in bringing new biomedical developments.
Under plans developed in 2002, new areas of research complement the existing skills in genomics to accelerate translation of genomic information into new biological knowledge and medical treatments. The new postgenomic research demands more sophisticated software and more efficient compute resources.