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Dr Derek Gatherer


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.  My main subject of study is viruses.  As well as being fascinating in their own right, their relatively small genomes make them ideal subjects for bioinformatics.

PhD supervision

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

Current Research

Currently active projects:

  1. Filoviruses outside Africa.  Collaboration with Dr Robert Lauder and Dr Lisa Bishop (Lancaster)
  2. Taxonomy of Order Herpesvirales.  International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) Working Group.

Research Interests

  1. The molecular evolution of viruses
  2. Self-referential networks in systems biology, and their philosophical implications
  3. Ebola, MERS and other novel pandemic threats

External Roles

Media appearances:  Over 200 broadcast media appearances on the subject of infectious diseases, particularly viruses, with Sky News Channel, BBC News 24, BBC radio (local and national), LBC, TRT World, France 24, al-Jazeera.  Quoted in newspapers on countless occasions.

Editorial Board: Journal of General Virology

Herpesvirales Working Group:  International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV)

Current Teaching

Currently I teach on the following modules - also module convenor where underlined:

  • BIOL113 Genetics: Introduction to Bioinformatics (lecture and workshop)
  • BIOL243 Medical Microbiology: Viruses (lectures and workshops)
  • BIOL275 Bionformatics: entire module (lectures and workshops)
  • BIOL313 Proteins: Structure, Function & Evolution: Protein Evolution (lectures and workshops)
  • 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, where media commentary has become a significant additional activity.

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