Corona variants: Tackle the bioinformatics bottleneck!

3. March 2021

In the light of fast-spreading coronavirus variants, genomic surveillance has become of great importance to fight the pandemic. 

In a commentary in “Nature”, a group of phylogenetic researchers explains what we can and what we can not infer about the mutation processes of SARS CoV 2 using computational tools. They discuss the role of phylogenetics in this process and claim that better support to develop and deploy bioinformatic tools is crucial to keep track of variant development and to improve pandemic management in the future. Therefore, they call on politicians, scientists and funders to put in place the resources, incentives and mandates to strengthen collaborations between academic researcher and public-health bodies.

Alexandros Stamatakis (picture: HITS)

One of the authors of this comment is Alexandros Stamatakis, leader of the “Computational Molecular Evolution” group at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) and full Professor for High Performance Computing in the Life Sciences at the Institute for Theoretical Informatics of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).  He has worked in the field of evolutionary bioinformatics for 20 years and has developed, for instance, the widely used RAxML software for reconstructing phylogenies.

The comment has been published in “Nature” on 1 March 2021.

“Want to track pandemic variants faster? Fix the bioinformatics bottleneck”.
Emma B. Hodcroft, Nicola De Maio, Rob Lanfear, Duncan R. MacCannell, Bui Quang Minh, Heiko A. Schmidt, Alexandros Stamatakis, Nick Goldman & Christophe Dessimoz. Nature, Vol 591, 1 March 2021.

About HITS

The Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) was established in 2010 by the physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, with a focus on the processing, structuring, and analyzing of large amounts of complex data and the development of computational methods and software. The research fields range from molecular biology to astrophysics. The shareholders of HITS are the HITS-Stiftung, which is a subsidiary of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, Heidelberg University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). HITS also cooperates with other universities and research institutes and with industrial partners. The base funding of HITS is provided by the HITS Stiftung with funds received from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. The primary external funding agencies are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the European Union.

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