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Dr Derek Gatherer


Derek Gatherer

Furness Building

Lancaster University


Lancaster LA1 4YG

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 1524 592900

Tel (mobile): 01524 592900

Location: B77

Web: https://twitter.com/viroscape

Research overview

I work in bioinformatics, which I define very generally as anything that can be done on a computer and which is relevant to the biological sciences.  In practice, however, most of my work over the years has been on sequence analysis with a minor component of network analysis.  Having spent just over 10 years in the old MRC Virology Unit, I have also come to think of myself as something of a virologist manqué.  Viruses, as well as being fascinating in their own right, are ideal subjects for bioinformatics.  I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to work on a variety of viruses (herpesviruses, papillomaviruses, adenoviruses, polyomaviruses, hepaciviruses, parvoviruses, influenza viruses and paramyxoviruses) from many different bioinformatics research angles.

Current Research

Currently active projects:

  1. Object-oriented modelling of self-referential [M,R] networks.  MSc student: Ling Zhang.
  2. Influenza C: a pilot study on a neglected respiratory virus.  MRes student: Kate Atkinson.  Collaboration with Dr Mark Wilkinson (Royal Lancaster Infirmary) and Prof Roger Pickup (Lancaster)
  3. Sequencing of novel Leishmania.  Collaboration with Prof Paul Bates (Lancaster)

Obviously I hope this list will grow a little in time.

Research Interests

I plan to develop the following research strands in bioinformatics:

  1. Gene expression of HSV-1 in herpetic keratitis.
  2. Grinnellian niche disruption and its effects on the evolution of avian influenza.
  3. Software for diagnostic/metagenomics analysis of viruses.

External Roles

Media appearances:  Interviewed about Ebola virus on SkyNews, 1st April 2014.

Current Teaching

Currently I teach on the following modules:

  • BIOL273 DNA Technology: Introduction to Bioinformatics (workshop)
  • BIOL435 Microbes & Disease: Viruses and Disease (lectures and workshop)
  • BIOL313 Protein Biochemistry: Protein Evolution (lectures and workshop)
  • BIOL467 Drug Development from Concept to Clinic: student presentation examiner 

Research Grants

  1. SIFT (Service Increment for Teaching) studentship, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay (UHMB) NHS Trust, 1st September 2014 - 31st August 2015.  MRes student: Kate Atkinson
  2. Rosetrees Trust consumables grant linked to above studentship

Additional Information

My first degree was in Genetics, and I began my scientific career as a molecular developmental biologist, in mammalian and amphibian systems, working at Imperial College School of Medicine in London.  After post-docs in Quito (where I had the opportunity to work on the Andean marsupial frog, Gastrotheca riobambae), Warwick and Cambridge, I took up as position as Lecturer in Molecular Genetics at Liverpool John Moores University.  During the end of my time in Cambridge, I became interested in how computers could be used for biology and while in Liverpool I completed the transition from the laboratory to bioinformatics, finally hanging up my labcoat for the last time in 1998.  I then moved into the pharmaceutical industry for four years where I learned how to do bioinformatics on a large scale, mostly working on analysis of the Human Genome Project dataset.  In 2003, I returned to academia at the old MRC Virology Unit in Glasgow (now part of the new MRC Centre for Virus Research), where I had the opportunity to build bioinformatics up virtually from scratch, at both hardware and software levels, and to learn a lot about viruses.  I joined Lancaster University in September 2013 and I am currently enjoying exploring ways in which I can bring a bioinformatics angle to the many diverse projects underway in this small and friendly, yet very dynamic, university.

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