HomeAboutSoftwarePublicationsPostsMicroBinfie Podcast

MicroBinfie Podcast, 82 Bioinformatics moments before the millennium

Released on May 12, 2022

Back to episode list

In this episode we talk to Professor Mark Pallen, who discusses the highlights from his long career as a medical microbiologist turned bioinformatician. His bioinformatics journey began in 1977, the year Fred Sanger invented DNA sequencing-as-we know-it, when Mark was tasked with assembling some amino acid sequences under exam conditions. Mark explains how little was know about sequences at the time. Luckily he managed to gain a grasp of molecular biology and joined a group in the late 1908s at Barts Hospital in London, where he met Brendan Wren. Mark's first eureka moment followed shortly afterwards, when he analysed sequences encoding the key enzyme urease from Helicobacter pylori. He also got very excited when he analysed genes from a clostridial butanol fermentation pathway, which he explains, played a central role in the formation of the state of Israel. His next big break came when he got the chance to do a PhD under Gordon Dougan. During this time, Mark not only improved his lab and bioinformatics skills, but captained a winning team in University Challenge and introduced the medical profession to the Internet. He recalls with excitement the moment when he first heard the news that a bacterial genome had been sequenced. Shortly afterwards he recruited an 18-year old gap year student, Nick Loman, to come and work with him analysing the very first Campylobacter jejuni genome. We close this episode just as the new millennium begins, with much more excitement to follow in the next episode. Relevant links: Butanol - https://academic.oup.com/femsle/article/124/1/61/486499 Tree-like thinking for genes, languages and gospel manuscripts - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ykj5wQs7vU Further references -