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National Institute of
General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Alisa Zapp Machalek
(301) 496-7301

Leader in Computational Biology is First Director of NIGMS Center

Eric Jakobsson, Ph.D., today became the first director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

"I am pleased that Dr. Jakobsson (view photograph: http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/may2003/jakobsson.jpg) has taken the helm of our newest component," said Judith Greenberg, Ph.D., acting director of NIGMS. "His vision and leadership in computational biology will spur growth and innovation in this important field."

The NIGMS Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) supports research and training in areas that join biology with the computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and physics. Examples include computer modeling of biological networks and dynamic processes; quantitative approaches to cellular, molecular and developmental biology; and the development of databases and other analytical tools. James Cassatt, Ph.D., director of the NIGMS Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics, has served as CBCB's acting director since the center was established in 2001.

Before coming to NIGMS, Jakobsson was a professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and in the programs in biophysics, neuroscience and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Additionally, he was a professor at the University of Illinois' Beckman Institute and a research scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

He recently served as director of the Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also directed and helped establish the bioengineering program there.

Jakobsson's research focuses on the computational and theoretical study of biological membranes. He is also a leader in the use of computers and other technology in education. Among Jakobsson's achievements is a computer system that enables users with a simple interface (Web browser) to simultaneously access several databases that would otherwise be incompatible.

Jakobsson earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from the Columbia University School of Engineering in 1960 and a Ph.D. in physics from Dartmouth College in 1969. He has authored many scientific articles and book chapters, is a member of many professional societies and has served as a manuscript reviewer for more than 15 journals or scientific publishing companies.

Jakobsson said, "I am very honored by this appointment, and excited by the opportunity to help NIGMS and the National Institutes of Health advance the health of the nation through the fields of bioinformatics and computational biology. I am sure that together we can build on the successes of these emerging fields and fully bring the power of the computer revolution to bear on biomedical issues."

As the new director of CBCB, Jakobsson will also assume from Cassatt leadership of the Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative. This initiative, which brings together senior-level representatives of various components of NIH and other Federal agencies interested in the use of computer science to address issues in biology and medicine. BISTI will hold its first symposium, called "Digital Biology: The Emerging Paradigm," on November 6-7, 2003 (http://www.bisti.nih.gov/2003meeting/).

NIGMS is one of the 27 components of the National Institutes of Health, the premier federal agency for biomedical research. In addition to its contributions in computational biology and bioinformatics, the institute supports programs in cell, molecular, and developmental biology; pharmacology; physiology; biophysics; biochemistry; and biomedical research and training for underrepresented minorities. More information on NIGMS can be found at http://www.nigms.nih.gov.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Jakobsson, call Alisa Zapp Machalek or Ann Dieffenbach at (301) 496-7301.

This release will be posted on the NIGMS Web site at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/news/releases/Jakobsson.html.

Please fax clips to (301) 402-0224.

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