Ewan Birney, Associate Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute, elected to the Royal Society

Ewan Birney, Associate Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute, elected to the Royal Society

1 May 2014 - 09:29

London, 30 April 2014 – Dr Ewan Birney, genomics researcher and joint Associate Director of EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute, has been elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society.

The Royal Society, founded in the 1660s, is a fellowship of the most eminent scientists, technologists and engineers in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries. Fellows are elected for life through a peer-review process on the basis of excellence in science. There are currently about 1350 Fellows and each year up to 52 new Fellows are elected. Those elected to the Royal Society over the years include Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Dorothy Hodgkin, Tim Berners-Lee, John Sulston, Janet Thornton and Paul Nurse.

Ewan says: “This is one of the highest honours for a British scientist to receive, and am extremely pleased to be elected to the Royal Society. The founding of the Royal Society represents a foundational shift in knowledge from authority-led to peer-based discourse, and I am very honoured to be part of this tradition. To me, this fellowship represents both recognition of the prominence of bioinformatics in the life sciences and an opportunity to discuss infrastructures for contemporary life science research at the highest levels.”

Ewan has grown to be a force in genomics due to his innovation in genome analysis, both algorithmic and integrative analyses. He wrote the first error-tolerant, splice-aware protein alignment program, used in the human and subsequent genome analysis; he co-authored one of the first and most widely used short read assemblers. In terms of data integration, Ewan has led the analysis in many genomic consortia, in particular ENCODE, leading the integration of many genomic assays; for example making robust predictions of enhancers, promoters, and their integration with disease associated regions. He also co-developed many widely used bioinformatics resources.

Professor Dame Janet Thornton, FRS, says: “I am delighted that Ewan has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He richly deserves this recognition for the leading role he has played in computational genomics since its very beginnings. At 41, Ewan is very young to be admitted to the fellowship and with his boundless energy, he will be able to influence science and science policy through the Royal Society in the UK and beyond for many years to come.”

Notes to Editors

About the Royal Society

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. The Society has played a part in some of the most fundamental, significant, and life-changing discoveries in scientific history and Royal Society scientists continue to make outstanding contributions to science in many research areas. The Royal Society is the national Academy of science in the UK, and its core is its Fellowship and Foreign Membership, supported by a dedicated staff in London and elsewhere. The Fellowship comprises the most eminent scientists of the UK, Ireland and the Commonwealth. A major activity of the Society is identifying and supporting the work of outstanding scientists. The Society supports researchers through its early and senior career schemes, innovation and industry schemes, and other schemes. The Society facilitates interaction and communication among scientists via its discussion meetings, and disseminates scientific advances through its journals. The Society also engages beyond the research community, through independent policy work, the promotion of high quality science education, and communication with the public.

About EMBL

EMBL is Europe’s flagship laboratory for the life sciences, with more than 80 independent groups covering the spectrum of molecular biology. EMBL is international, innovative and interdisciplinary – its 1700 employees, from many nations, operate across five sites: the main laboratory in Heidelberg, and outstations in Grenoble; Hamburg; Hinxton, near Cambridge (the European Bioinformatics Institute), and Monterotondo, near Rome. Founded in 1974, EMBL is an inter-governmental organisation funded by public research monies from its member states. The cornerstones of EMBL’s mission are: to perform basic research in molecular biology; to train scientists, students and visitors at all levels; to offer vital services to scientists in the member states; to develop new instruments and methods in the life sciences and actively engage in technology transfer activities, and to integrate European life science research. Around 190 students are enrolled in EMBL’s International PhD programme. Additionally, the Laboratory offers a platform for dialogue with the general public through various science communication activities such as lecture series, visitor programmes and the dissemination of scientific achievements. www.embl.org


The European Bioinformatics Institute is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Europe’s flagship laboratory for the life sciences (www.embl.org). EMBL-EBI provides freely available data from life science experiments covering the full spectrum of molecular biology, and performs investigator-led research using computational approaches to unravel the secrets of life. Our extensive training programme helps researchers in academia and industry to make the most of the incredible amount of data being produced every day in life science experiments. We are a non-profit, intergovernmental organisation funded by EMBL member states. Our 500 staff hail from 43 countries, and we welcome a regular stream of visiting scientists throughout the year. www.ebi.ac.uk

Contact the news team

Mary Todd Bergman
Senior Communications Officer
+44 (0)1223 494 665

Rodica Petrusevschi
Communications Officer
+44 (0)1223 494 293

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