It’s a BLAST... Mastering Genomics

Symposium on the occasion of Gene Myers’ 65th birthday

© MPI-CBG

On 25 and 26 November, we celebrated the 65th birthday of Gene Myers, founding director of the Center for Systems Biology (CSBD), and one of the directors at the MPI-CBG. The symposium’s title “It’s a BLAST… Mastering Genomics” recalls some of his major scientific achievements.

Gene Myers received his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Colorado in 1981 and then became professor at the University of Arizona (at the age of 27). At that time, he and his colleagues developed the software program BLAST (basic local alignment search tool) an algorithm for comparing primary biological sequence information such as DNA or RNA sequences. His 1990 paper describing BLAST has received over 62,000 citations making it amongst the most highly cited papers ever. Gene also made a major contribution to decoding the human genome at the end of the 1990ies. Although heavily criticized at first, his “shot-gun method” enabled the early completion of the Human Genome Project, years before the originally expected time.

Gene Myers joined the scientific community in Dresden as the Founding Director of the Center for Systems Biology (CSBD) and Director at the MPI-CBG in 2012. Previously, he had been a group leader at the HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus (JFRC). From 2003 to 2005 Gene was on the faculty of Computer Science at UC Berkeley. Before, he was the Vice President of Informatics Research at Celera Genomics for four years. Gene was voted the most influential in bioinformatics in 2001 by Genome Technology Magazine and won the International Max Planck Research Prize in 2004. In 2006, and was awarded an honorary doctorate at ETH, Zurich.

17 speakers and many local and international guests from all stations of his career were invited and formed a great scientific program. Many also threw in fond memories and personal anecdotes, making it a warm-hearted and cheerful event. Everyone was happy to celebrate this special birthday with Gene, who concluded with a touching thank-you speech.

To the next years and many exciting projects… Happy birthday, Gene!