April 2016 | Aibreán 2016

Prof Des Higgins to Receive Kimura Motoo Award

Thu, 21 April 16 13:35

Prof Des Higgins (above; Jason Clarke Photography)

In recognition of his significant contributions to the advancement of evolutionary biology and to the field of molecular phylogeny specifically, Professor Des Higgins, (Conway Institute and Systems Biology Ireland), Professor of Bioinformatics at UCD School of Medicine will receive the Kimura Motoo award from the Kimura Motoo Foundation for the Promotion of Evolutionary Biology.

Dedicated to the memory of Dr Motoo Kimura, widely regarded as one of the greatest evolutionary geneticists, the Kimura Motoo Foundation for the Promotion of Evolutionary Biology was established ten years ago by Mr Osamu Suzuki, Chairman of Suzuki Motors Corporation and supports research and education in the life sciences.

In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Foundation, the Kimura Motoo award has been created to recognise the most outstanding scientist worldwide from each of four research fields of evolutionary biology; population genetics, molecular phylogeny, molecular evolution and evolutionary genomics, and human evolution.

Professor Higgins is being honoured along with Professors Giorgio Bernardi (Roma Tre University), Montgomery Slatkin (University of California) and Marcus W. Feldman (Stanford University). They will each deliver a seminar on their research and receive the award at a ceremony in Tokyo, Japan on the 1st June 2016.

Commenting on the announcement, Professor Higgins said,

“I am delighted and honoured to receive this prestigious award in recognition of my work on automated multiple sequence alignment. I would like to thank the executive committee of the Kimura Motoo Foundation for their consideration.”

Professor Des Higgins has been working in the areas of bioinformatics and molecular evolution since 1985, predominantly on methods and software for DNA and protein sequence alignment.

In 1988, he developed the original Clustal programme for aligning protein sequences, which has made an exceptional impact in the field. The papers describing Clustal are among the most highly cited bioinformatics papers ever. One of the innovations of that programme was that the algorithm was designed to work on personal computers, which greatly increased its use among scientists and has meant it could be used in laboratories everywhere; today it is considered the industry standard.

In the last few years, with funding from Science Foundation Ireland, his laboratory has developed and released Clustal Omega, providing a new generation of alignment software scaled to cope with the enormous datasets that modern science can effortlessly generate. His research group in the UCD Conway Institute currently works on developing new bioinformatics and statistical tools for evolutionary biologists and addresses molecular evolutionary questions using bioinformatics approaches.

About the Foundation

The Kimura Motoo Foundation for the Promotion of Evolutionary Biology salutes the great achievements in evolutionary biology of Dr Motoo Kimura (1924-1994). The foundation was established with the major goals of supporting and promoting research and education in not only the evolutionary biology but also its related research fields of life science.

Related Information

Original article published by UCD Conway Institute. Reproduced with permission.