Research in my group involves using computers to analyse and understand biological information. Our focus is on the amino acid sequences of proteins, how these can be grouped into related families, and what these family relationships can tell us about protein function, structure and evolution. Members of a family in which we have a keen interest (G protein-coupled receptors) are acted upon by more than 50% of prescription drugs – this makes them especially interesting to pharmaceutical companies. We have developed an analysis method (protein fingerprinting) that allows us to uniquely diagnose new members of this and many other important families; it is used today in international projects to help annotate the results of newly-sequenced genomes.
We are also interested in using computers to allow readers to make better use of scientific articles. In particular, we have developed software that ‘brings life’ to electronic versions of papers by adding interactive capabilities to them: e.g., by directly linking what is written with interactive software tools and online databases. The software (called Utopia) offers readers the best of both worlds – i.e., access both to the original research and to analysis tools that allow them to explore research findings in real time.