Prof. Thomas Lengauer has been elected the next president of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB), the largest international scientific society for the field of computational biology and bioinformatics.
This interdisciplinary field aims at elucidating the function of living organisms at the molecular level using mathematical models and computers. Computational biology gained central relevance with the emergence of techniques in molecular biology that developed before and during the first sequencing of the human genome in the 90s and are revolutionizing the life sciences today. New experiments generate cell-wide data pertaining to the blueprint of a cell (genomics), the genes expressed by a cell (transcriptomics), the proteins produced by a cell (proteomics), its metabolites (metabolomics), and its molecular interactions (interactomics). Current research focusses on unravelling how the cell regulates its molecular processes (epigenomics) and on uncovering the molecular basis of diseases. The central role of computational biology and bioinformatics comprises supporting the configuration of highly complex lab experiments with mathematical models and analyses, identifying significant patterns in the voluminous data generated by experiments via data mining (bioinformatics), and building mathematical models for the relevant biological structures and processes (computational biology). The field produces complex software systems in order to master these challenges.
"I regard this office as both an honor and an obligation", says Thomas Lengauer. He attaches to his ISCB presidency the hope for a sustained development of the Society: "In the past twenty years, computational biology has developed into a central and indispensable component of the life sciences. After times of rapid growth from minute beginnings, today, we are facing continuing unabated dynamical development, both on the experimental and on the computer side." Currently, bioinformatical methods are widely applied as a high-tech tool in pharmaceutics, agriculture, and biotech research. The power of computers and the sophisticated algorithms running on them have been the key to improving our understanding of the complex interplay between biomolecules. Prof. Lengauer adds what he regards as upcoming challenges: "We need to differentiate between measuring errors and biologic variation, a principle used in evolution to build and improve biological systems. Furthermore, it is important to move from purely associative studies to research that uncovers causal relationships and mechanistic understanding. Finally, translational research is an important direction for transforming the results of basic research into benefit for the patients. The ISCB will accompany developments as well as support researchers and patients."
Thomas Lengauer will be the seventh president of the ISCB. He is a founding member, the current Vice President, and has been a fellow of the Society since 2015. Lengauer holds doctoral degrees in mathematics from the Free University of Berlin (1976) and in Computer Science from Stanford University (1979). After more than two decades of research in theoretical computer science and in the area of designing integrated circuits he turned to bioinformatics in the 1990s and was a driving force in this field in Germany and abroad. In 2001, the Max Planck Society elected him as scientific member and named him Director at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics. Furthermore he holds adjunct professorships at Saarland University and the University of Bonn. Initially, Thomas Lengauer performed research on the computer-based analysis and prediction of three-dimensional structures of proteins and on computer-aided drug development. In the latter area, he co-founded the BioSolveIT GmbH in Sankt Augustin, which develops and distributes software for drug design. Currently, his research focuses on computational epigenomics, which aims to explain how the cell regulates its processes, and on the analysis of viral drug resistance. For this problem, Lengauer and his research group have developed software for selecting drug combinations for HIV patients.
Prof. Lengauer will take up his office as President-elect in January 2017, while the current president, Alfonso Valencia, from the National Cancer Research Center in Madrid, Spain, continues his work. From January 2018 to January 2021, Lengauer will be president of the ISCB, then following with a year as outgoing President.
Webpage Thomas Lengauer: people.mpi-inf.mpg.de/~lengauer
Webpage ISCB: http:// www.iscb.org
Max-Planck-Institut für Informatik
Max-Planck-Institut für Softwaresysteme
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