[All] Fwd: Invitation | Sir Ernst Chain Lecture 2020 | 4 November 2020: Enzymes, evolution and disease: 50 years of Bioinformatics Prof Dame Janet Thornton

Cath Brooksbank cath at ebi.ac.uk
Thu Oct 8 08:52:13 BST 2020


The honour of your company is requested at the Sir Ernst Chain Lecture 2020:

Enzymes, Evolution and Disease: 50 years of bioinformatics
Professor Dame Janet Thornton, FRS, FMedSci, EMBL-EBI
Date: Wednesday 4 November 2020
Time: 17:00 – 18:30 GMT
Venue: Microsoft Teams Live Event
The lecture is free to attend and open to all, but registration is required in advance.
Register to attend on Eventbrite <https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sir-ernst-chain-lecture-2020-enzymes-evolution-and-disease-tickets-119584996945>
The link to join the event will be circulated in the joining instructions

The last 50 years have seen bioinformatics evolve from a relatively minor pursuit into one of the major areas of biological research today. This has been driven by the DNA sequencing revolution and the rise of structural biology, which was only just beginning 50 years ago. Some of the first protein structures were of enzymes and were determined in Oxford – a prelude to understanding how they functioned as catalysts and performed their biological function. Today we have garnered data on almost 1000 enzymes, whose structures and functions are known, to improve our understanding of biocatalysis. One surprising finding has been that most enzymes have evolved from other ‘older’ enzymes, by slight modification of the binding sites or occasionally the catalytic mechanism. Another is that many diseases occur because of single amino acids variants which affect enzyme function. Even ageing can be modulated by single variants. These variants are gradually being identified and understood in terms of their effects on health, diseases and ageing. 
Despite all these data, biology remains in a ‘discovery phase’, where there are many many basic facts we still do not know or do not understand about how living organisms work. However, in parallel we now see an increasing push to exploit this flood of data to improve the world we live in.  Bioinformatics provides the glue and the analytical approaches to develop quantitative models of life, which in the clinic can potentially help in diagnosis, prognosis and even sometimes identify a therapy. It is clear that the next 50 years will see the emergence of robust mathematical models to characterize living processes and make predictions. The relatively recent emergence of machine learning and synthetic biology have further fuelled the possibilities to harness all this molecular data for the benefit of society – addressing some of our major societal issues like infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance and designing green waste disposal.
The lecture will highlight the contributions of bioinformatics over the last 50 years and provide a glimpse of future opportunities.
Janet Thornton is a Senior Scientist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) on the Wellcome Genome Campus at Hinxton, near Cambridge, UK. She was Director of the Institute from 2001-2015. 
She studied for her PhD at the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill after graduating as a physicist. After a post-doc in Oxford, Janet moved to London (Birkbeck and later UCL) before becoming Director at EMBL-EBI. Janet’s research is focused on proteins, especially their structure, function and evolution. She is a computational biologist, working at the interface of biology with physics, chemistry, and computing. This includes a detailed analysis of enzyme biocatalysts, their mechanisms and the evolution of new functions. Her group is also investigating the molecular basis of ageing. She has published more than 500 scientific papers, was elected to the Royal Society in 1999 and is a Foreign Associate of US National Academy of Sciences. In 2012 she became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to bioinformatics.

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