Mini profile: Bob MacCallum
4 May 2012
How did you get into bioinformatics?
Until a few years ago, my dad was a computer science lecturer, so computers have always been in my blood. However, being the usual rebellious child, I decided not to pursue computing and did a biology degree instead! Later on during my PhD at UCL, I discovered bioinformatics – the application of computer science and information technology to biology and medicine. I’ve been involved in computational biology ever since.
What is VectorBase?
I’ve been at Imperial since 2005 working for VectorBase – a consortium involving the University of Notre Dame, Harvard, the European Bioinformatics Institute and the University of Crete – tasked with building a website and database of genome sequence, gene expression, and population data for different species of mosquitoes and other insect vectors of disease. A vector is an organism responsible for transmitting infections from host to host.
How did the project begin?
The project is funded by the US government and arose in the aftermath of 9/11 when homeland security was high on the agenda. It is hoped that an improved understanding of vector borne diseases will help defend against their potential weaponisation, improve conditions in developing countries, and mitigate the effects of global warming as vector populations move into new areas.
Who’s the database for?
VectorBase is a portal for worldwide insect vector research. We gather microarray (the technology used to do gene expression profiling) data from the community into one web-based resource. Biologists with no computational training can see how a specific gene is switched on and off (or regulated up and down), with respect to different biological events and processes. Our latest development, published in BMC Genomics, is a map of gene expression in the malaria mosquito.
— Emily Ross-Joannou, Communications and Development