Award for UCD Professor who created open source software used in labs around the world


Pictured: Professor Higgins, who has won the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Award

Posted March 23, 2018

The Benjamin Franklin Award for Open Access in the Life Sciences has been awarded to UCD Professor of Bioinformatics, Des Higgins.

The award is presented by bioinformatics.org, an online community of more than 40,000 bioinformatics experts.

Professor Higgins was honoured for the impact of Clustal, a series of open source computer programmes used to align biological sequences like DNA. Clustal is now an industry-standard in laboratories around the world.

Previous winners of the Benjamin Franklin Award include Rafael Irizarry, Harvard University; Benjamin Langmead, John Hopkins University and Helen M. Berman, Rutgers University.

"My work is on algorithms and software for the alignment of DNA and protein sequences, especially for the Clustal series of programs which were initially written by me in 1988 and that are now maintained and developed by my lab in UCD," Professor Higgins said of his work. 

"These are used by researchers all over the world to help make sense of genome sequences and are among the most widely-used packages in use in molecular biology laboratories."

In 2014, Nature included Professor Higgins in the top 10 most-cited bioinformatics researchers of all time. The following year he was a recipient of the Motoo Kimura Award for his advancements in evolutionary biology.

His current research group at the UCD Conway Institute develops new, open source tools for evolutionary biology and the multivariate analysis of omics data.

Professor Higgins will give his laureate presentation to the Bio-IT World Conference and Expo on May 17, 2018.

By: Jonny Baxter, digital journalist, UCD University Relations