Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research Launches Fellowships in Computational Biology with Pfizer Central Research

February 4, 2000

Tags: Awards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research today announced a new program for Computational Biology, a scientific discipline regarded by researchers as critical to advancing gene research. The Computational Biology Fellows Program at the Whitehead Institute, with funding and scientific support from Pfizer Central Research, will begin with two Fellows, who will conduct independent research at the interface of biology, computer science, and mathematics.

"The recent explosion of vast stores of biological information—from genome sequences of organisms to gene expression data—has revealed the critical need for highly trained computational biologists in both academia and industry," says Whitehead Director Dr. Gerald R. Fink. "We are very pleased that Pfizer has joined with us to create a program to identify and train the best young researchers in this emerging field."

Like the highly regarded Whitehead Fellows Program, the Pfizer Computational Biology Fellows Program will offer recent graduates from M.D. and Ph.D. programs the opportunity to develop and pursue an independent research agenda for three years, with the possibility of extending the position for an additional two years. General topics of interest to the Fellows might include the correlation of gene sequence variation with human diseases; the dissection of complex protein structures relevant to drug discovery; or the assembly of regulatory circuits from gene sequence and expression information.

"The Whitehead Institute has a unique set of resources to nurture these Fellows, including first-rate molecular biologists; leaders in genomics and informatics; and ongoing collaborations with exceptional mathematicians and computer scientists at MIT," says Dr. Alan R. Proctor, Vice President and Head of the Pfizer Discovery Technology Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In addition to their work at Whitehead, the Pfizer Fellows will have an opportunity to explore computational biology in a corporate setting. "We are looking forward to regular interactions between the Fellows and Pfizer scientists," Dr. Proctor adds. "The synergy of ideas from basic and applied science will benefit both sides." The Pfizer Discovery Technology Center serves as a focal point for networking with the local academic community in areas such as informatics, genomics, robotics, and chemistry.

Each Pfizer Fellow in Computational Biology will have two Whitehead mentors, one in biology and the other in computational science. Among these mentors will be Dr. Eric S. Lander, Director of the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research (CGR); Dr. Jill Mesirov, CGR's Associate Director for Informatics; Dr. Peter S. Kim, a structural biologist who has made major contributions to both protein-folding research and the study of HIV entry into cells; and Dr. Richard Young, who has used new microchip technologies to dissect the genetic circuitry of eukaryotic cells.

The Whitehead Institute is a non-profit, independent research and teaching institution recognized worldwide for leading edge programs in genomics, cell biology, cancer research, structural biology, and infectious disease. The Whitehead is affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in its teaching activities, but wholly responsible for its own research programs, governance, and finance. Inquiries about the Computational Biology Fellows Program at the Whitehead Institute should be directed to Dr. Richard A. Young, chairman of the search committee.

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