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Dr Derek Gatherer FHEA


Derek Gatherer

Lancaster University

Furness Building



Tel: +44 1524 592900

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.  Viruses, as well as being fascinating in their own right, are ideal subjects for bioinformatics.  I'm lucky to have had the opportunity over the years to work on a variety of viruses (herpesviruses, papillomaviruses, adenoviruses, polyomaviruses, hepaciviruses, parvoviruses, influenza viruses, filoviruses, enteroviruses, deltaviruses and paramyxoviruses) from many different bioinformatics research angles.

PhD supervision

Bioinformatics/phylogenetics (where relevant to virology). Theoretical systems biology (self-referential systems).

Current Research

Currently active projects:

  1. Filoviruses outside Africa.  Collaboration with Dr Robert Lauder and Dr Lisa Bishop (Lancaster)

Research Interests

  1. The molecular evolution of viruses
  2. Self-referential networks in systems biology, and their philosophical implications
  3. Winter respiratory infections in the Lancaster area
  4. Ebola, MERS and other novel pandemic threats

External Roles

Media appearances:  Interviewed extensively about infectious diseases, particularly viruses, on Sky News Channel, BBC News 24, BBC radio (local and national) and by several newspapers.

Editorial Board: Journal of General Virology

Current Teaching

Currently I teach on the following modules:

  • BIOL113 Genetics: Introduction to Bioinformatics (lecture and workshop)
  • BIOL243 Medical Microbiology: Viruses (lectures and workshops)
  • BIOL273 DNA Technology: Introduction to Bioinformatics (lectures and workshops)
  • BIOL313 Protein Biochemistry: Protein Evolution (lectures and workshops)
  • BIOL322 Tropical Diseases: Ebola virus disease (lecture and workshop)
  • BIOL334 Environmental Pathogens: Viruses (lectures and workshop)
  • BIOL387 Research Project: supervision
  • BIOL435 Microbes & Disease: Viruses and Disease (lectures and workshop)
  • BIOL445 Bioinformatics: entire module (lectures and workshops)
  • FutureLearn MOOC: Influenza

Research Grants

  1. Cancer & Polio Research Fund travel grant 2015-2019

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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