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2014 Bernal Lecture examines the impact of advances in bioinformatics

Dame Janet Thornton, Director of EMBL-EBI, talks about advances that have made bioinformatics pivotal to research in the biological sciences.

2014 Bernal Lecture examines the impact of major advances in bioinformatics

This year’s Bernal Lecture was given by Dame Janet Thornton, Director of EMBL-EBI. The European Bioinformatics Institute is part of Europe’s flagship laboratory for life sciences, specifically in molecular biology research. Earlier in her career, she led research teams at both Birkbeck and UCL, and was appointed to the Bernal Chair in the Department of Crystallography at Birkbeck.

In his introduction the Master of Birkbeck, Professor David Latchman, related how he’d first encountered Dame Janet in an interview for a new post in bioinformatics at UCL, when the  use of data-crunching and computer modelling was regarded with suspicion. Her career path reflects the transformation of bioinformatics over the past decades to its current pivotal place in biological research.

Dame Janet’s lecture (The Importance of Genomics and Bioinformatics for the future of Medicine and Agriculture), looked first at the stunning advances in bioinformatics, most notably in genomic sequencing. In terms of cost and speed technological developments have reduced both the time taken to sequence codes and the cost. These changes are powering a whole raft of European projects including the UK’s aim to sequence the genome of 100,000 patients. She then looked at various applications for the results of this sequencing: touching on the use of personalised drugs, treatments for cancers, such as malignant melanoma, and the development of pest and drought resistant crops.

Podcast: you can listen to the whole lecture, including the Master’s welcome and Professor Gabriel Waksman’s vote of thanks [Lecture: c.53 minutes]

[Image of Dame Janet Thornton from 2014 BBSRC interview: 20 Years of Bioscience]

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