Professor Thomas Lengauer is president of the leading international society for bioinformatics

Thomas Lengauer, director at the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science and spokesman of the Center for Bioinformatics at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, has become president of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB).

Bioinformatics analyzes the function of living organisms on a molecular level with mathematical models and algorithms. The field gained its central importance with developments in molecular biology, which provide cell-wide information on the hereditary information, i.e., the blueprint of the cell (genomics), the genes expressed in the cell (transcriptomics), the protein molecules (proteomics) and the metabolites (metabolomics) produced in the cell as well as their interactions (interactomics). Current research focuses on the regulation of molecular processes in cells (epigenomics) and the molecular basis of diseases. Bioinformatics provides computer-based tools for molecular biology experiments in order to analyze the extensive data obtained with regard to biologically relevant patterns (data mining) and to develop mathematical models for biological structures and processes. Extensive software systems are developed and used to accomplish these tasks.

"Our society is currently well positioned, but should continue to grow in order to address the tasks of the future," explains Professor Lengauer. "We need to further improve bioinformatics skills and capabilities among our partners in the life sciences." In pharmaceutical research, health research and biotechnology, for example, a more precise understanding of the complex interactions of the various biomolecules in organisms is essential; the availability of extensive data collections, computing power and efficient analysis algorithms has opened up new development opportunities. Lengauer continues: "I see it as my task as the president to further strengthen bioinformatics as an interdisciplinary area. Biologists, in particular, can benefit from our findings and tools in their research and are increasingly dependent on them."

With the development of this area, national and international societies, such as the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB), were founded in the 1990s. Founded in Washington D. C. in 1997 and having over 3000 members, the ISCB is currently the largest society and host of the largest annual meeting, the  International Symposium on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology. It runs scientific education initiatives, organizes or participates in conferences on all continents, maintains partnerships with scientific journals, awards science prizes, and issues scientific opinions statements. Thomas Lengauer is the seventh president of the ISCB, one of its founding members, former vice-president, and since 2015, one of the fellows of the Society. Professor Lengauer will hold the office of president for three years, followed by a year as immediate past-president.

Thomas Lengauer received his doctorate in mathematics from the Free University of Berlin in 1976 and his doctorate in computer science from Stanford University in 1979. After more than two decades of research in theoretical computer science and on the design of integrated circuits, he turned to bioinformatics in the early 1990s and was one of the founders of this scientific discipline in Germany. In 2001, the Max Planck Society elected him as a scientific member and appointed him a director of the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, where he heads the Department of Bioinformatics. He is an honorary professor at the universities of Saarbrücken and Bonn. Thomas Lengauer initially performed research on computer-aided analysis and prediction of the spatial structures of proteins and on computer-aided drug design. In 2001, BioSolveIT GmbH in Sankt Augustin emerged from the latter area; it develops and distributes software for drug design. Lengauer is co-founder of this company. He is currently researching epigenomics, the elucidation of cell regulation, and the analysis of resistance to viral infections. In the latter area, software has been developed in his department to select combinations of drugs for HIV patients.

Thomas Lengauer


MPI für Informatik

Center for Bioinformatics