Rolf Apweiler, Interim Head

Rolf stepped into the temporary position of Interim Head of Open Targets when Jeff Barrett stepped down in March 2018 after 3 years as Director. Rolf is Director of EMBL-EBI, together with Ewan Birney. Prior to this position he was Joint Associate Director, after many years of leading protein resources such as EMBL-EBI's contribution to the UniProt Consortium. He also leads EMBL-EBI’s contribution to the Gene Ontology. Rolf received his PhD from the University of Heidelberg in 1994, and has been at EMBL since 1987. His major contribution to the field of proteomics was recognised by his election to President of the Human Proteomics Organisation, which he held in 2007 and 2008. In 2012, he was elected as a member of EMBO.

Ian Dunham, Scientific Director

Ian has been involved in genomics since around the time the term was coined. He obtained his D. Phil from Oxford University in 1989, determining the long-range structure of the human MHC. During his postdoctoral studies he worked with the genomic pioneer Maynard Olson in St Louis, before returning to the UK to construct a physical map of human chromosome 22. At the Sanger Centre from 1993 his work focussed first on genome sequencing including the first human chromosome sequence in 1999, and subsequently on developing functional maps of the human genome. This included gene structure maps, variation maps, and the first chromosome-wide linkage disequilibrium map. Recently Ian's research interests include experimental and computational approaches to genome-wide mapping of regulatory elements and chromatin state in the human genome as part of the NHGRI ENCODE project, as well as understanding the influence of variation on regulatory elements in human and other organisms. Ian has been at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Cambridge, UK since 2007.

David Hulcoop, Operations Director

David has a PhD from the University of Cambridge in Organic Chemistry and conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Toronto in Canada. He joined GSK in 2007 initially in the Process Chemistry group to develop manufacturing processes for small molecule therapies. Through his time at GSK he has held project leadership and line management roles in R&D and led research and technology transfer programmes between R&D and Global Manufacturing. Before joining Open Targets David was engaged in developing and implementing strategic projects for GSK through a secondment to the office of the CEO and CFO as part of the CEO’s Future Strategy Group. As Operations Director, David oversees the management of a number of informatics and experimental target validation projects as well as ensuring the strategic deployment and operational translation of Open Targets.

Birgit Kerber, Business Development Lead

Birgit has been actively engaged in establishing technology transfer at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) more than 16 years ago and over the years she held various positions at EMBL’s technology transfer arm, EMBLEM. In addition, she is currently responsible for business development at EMBL-EBI and Open Targets. Birgit has been engaged in starting companies out of EMBL, as well as in managing and licensing intellectual property in a number of fields with biotech and large pharma companies as customers. She holds a diploma in biology from Philipps-University Marburg, did her PhD work in molecular developmental genetics at the Max-Planck-Institute for biophysical chemistry in Goettingen with Michael Hoch and a postdoc with Stephen Cohen at EMBL Heidelberg. She is a member of BIO Deutschland and the Licensing Executives Society as well as an alumna of St Gallen Business School, CEIPI, Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds, DFG and EMBO.

Will Chen, Biogen Scientific Lead

Will is the Head of Computational and Systems Biology at Biogen. His group leverages mathematical and computational technologies, and analysis of genomics scale data for drug discovery and development in the area of neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases. Prior to joining Biogen in 2016 to build up its systems biology capabilities, he was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School where he led the computational and analytics effort of the nascent multi-investigator HMS Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology that was devoted to developing and advancing quantitative therapeutic sciences, toxicology and regulatory sciences, working across a number of disease areas with investigators from experimental labs, research hospitals and biotech and pharma organizations. He completed his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School (HMS) in 2013 on large-scale nonlinear dynamical modeling of cancer signal transduction, and his PhD on theoretical biophysics of protein folding at Harvard University in 2006.

Shameek Biswas, Celgene Scientific Lead

Shameek is a Principal Scientist in the Research Analytics group working on TIDVAL and biomarker studies in neurodegeneration. He is focused on statistical fine mapping of GWAS hits and generating disease evidence by integrating genetics with molecular profiling and clinical data. Prior to joining Celgene in 2016, he spent seven years in Novo Nordisk working on target validation and patient stratification for inflammatory and metabolic conditions. He received his Ph.D. in Genome Sciences from University of Washington in 2010, where he worked on problems in population genetics and eQTL analysis.

Maria Martin, Joint EMBL-EBI Scientific Lead

Maria is the Team Leader of Protein function developments at EMBL-EBI. She manages the bioinformatics infrastructure of the Universal Protein Resource (UniProt), the world leading database of classified and functionally annotated protein sequences. Her group also manages and develops software for the Gene Ontology annotation and the Enzyme portal projects. She holds a M.Sc. in Veterinary Medicine and a PhD in Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics, and she has been working in developing infrastructure for scientific data for 19 years. Her research interests include the study of novel methods for protein function prediction, and protein annotation and visualization.

Oliver Stegle, Joint EMBL-EBI Scientific Lead

Oliver is a Research Group Leader at EMBL-EBI. Oliver's team develops and applies advances statistical and machine learning methods to fully exploit high-throughput molecular data. He is particularly interested methods to link genotype to molecular traits and phenotypes and computational single-cell biology. Prior to his work at EMBL-EBI, he received his PhD from the University of Cambridge (2009) while working with David MacKay on statistical machine learning and computational biology. He did his postdoctoral work at the Max Planck campus Tuebingen (2009-2012) before setting up his own group at EMBL-EBI in 2012.

Philippe Sanseau, GSK Scientific Lead

Philippe is Head of Computational Biology at GSK. He has a PhD from University of Rennes in France and conducted his postdoctoral training at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London (now Cancer Research UK), with a focus on immunogenetics. He joined GSK to work initially in the Genetics and Genomics Departments. Since 2001 he has held various senior roles in bioinformatics and computational biology. Philippe is currently leading the Computational Biology (CB) Department at GSK with scientists located in the UK and US. The CB Department is working on multiple therapeutic areas supporting drug discovery and development projects at all phases of the pipeline using diverse bioinformatics approaches applied to biomedical internal and external data. The Department maintains a strong scientific innovation agenda as demonstrated by our activities in target validation, drug repositioning, systems approaches, or microbiome analyses. CB at GSK has also developed an international network of academic collaborators and maintains a strong publication record. Philippe is a member of several international advisory boards and different UK and international funding committees.

Nizar Smaoui, Takeda Scientific Lead

Nizar has received his medical degree from the faculty of medicine in Tunis and had his medical training in clinical genetics in Charles Nicolle Hospital in Tunis. He is also board certified in clinical molecular genetics from the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics. In 1996, he obtained the Master Diploma in human genetics University Pierre-Marie Curie, Paris France. In 1995, he joined the FMF French consortium in Genethon in France to successfully identify the MEFV gene causing Familial Mediterranean Fever. He then started a postdoctoral fellowship in the Ophthalmic Genetics branch at the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He was then appointed as the Medical Director of GeneDx, a leading genetic testing company for rare disease. He joined Takeda in 2014 and is a member of the translation and early clinical team. At Takeda, he works with the drug discovery teams to address the application of human genetics and genomics in reverse translation to identify genetic factors and identify/validate targets that cause or influence human disease and drug response.

Mathew Garnett, Sanger Scientific Lead

Mathew leads the Translational Cancer Genomics laboratory and Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer Project at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. Mathew's team uses high-throughput drug sensitivity screens and genome-editing technology in cancer and normal human cells to understand how cancer genes contribute to disease and to facilitate the development of new treatments. After obtaining a BSc in Biochemistry (Hons.) at the University of British Columbia, Canada, Mathew completed his PhD with Prof. Richard Marais at the Institute of Cancer Research (London, UK) on the characterisation of BRAF as a cancer gene. In 2005 Mathew moved to the laboratory of Prof. Ashok Venkitaraman (Cambridge, UK) for his post-doctoral research, where he discovered a new regulator of cell division. Mathew joined the Sanger Institute in 2009.

Scientific Advisory Board

The Open Targets Scientific Advisory Board established in 2016 comprises of:

  • Bissan Al-Lazikani, Team leader, Computational Biology & Chemogenomics, The Institute of Cancer Research, UK
  • Søren Brunak, Professor and Founder, Center for Biological Sequence Analysis - Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark
  • Robert Graham, Senior Scientist, OMNI Human Genetics, Genentech, USA
  • Joanna Holbrook, Drug Discovery Scientist and Head of ‘Omics Integration, BenevolentAI, UK,
  • Robert Vries, Managing Director, Hubrecht Organoid Technology foundation,HUB, Netherlands

Platform Team

The Open Targets Platform is developed by a diverse group of individuals with skills in bioinformatics, computer science and web development:

  • Miguel Carmona, Backend Software Engineer, EMBL-EBI mkarmona
  • Denise Carvalho-Silva, Scientific Outreach Lead, EMBL-EBI deniseOme
  • Luca Fumis, Frontend developer, EMBL-EBI lucafumis
  • Andrew Hercules, UX lead, EMBL-EBI andrewhercules
  • Gautier Koscielny, GSK Lead, GSK gkos-bio
  • Alfredo Miranda, Frontend developer, EMBL-EBI mirandaio
  • William Newell, Bioinformatician, GSK wnewell
  • ChuangKee Ong, Data Coordinator, EMBL-EBI ckongEbi
  • Eliseo Papa, Biogen Lead, Biogen elipapa
  • Gareth Peat, Frontend developer, EMBL-EBI peatroot
  • Michaela Spitzer, Bioinformatician, EMBL-EBI MichaelaEBI

Genetics Core Team

The Genetics Core team focuses on using human genetics data to guide therapeutic target identification and prioritisation, inform drug repositioning and predict toxicity effects. The team is currently developing a first of its kind Genetics portal that will enable users to browse, visualise and interpret human genetics and genomics data to unravel the genetic underpinnings of human diseases and traits and to give insights into disease biology so that this knowledge gets translated into therapeutic hypothesis.

  • Maya Ghoussaini, Team Leader, Sanger, maya.ghoussaini@sanger.ac.uk
  • Edward Mountjoy, Team Member, Sanger, edward.mountjoy@sanger.ac.uk
  • Ellen Schmidt, Team Member, Sanger, ellen.schmidt@sanger.ac.uk
  • Daniel Wright, Team Member, Sanger, daniel.wright@sanger.ac.uk