Revolutionary New Science

Dr. Lee Hood
Institute for Systems Biology

Friday, March 8th
Who is Lee Hood?
“I believe the opportunity exists to catalyze revolutionary new science.”
Dr. Lee Hood is the founder and Director of the Institute for Systems Biology, a spin-off from his labs at University of Washington (UW). Hood came to UW from UCLA encouraged by aggressive financing from Bill Gates. Hood has been (i.e. first gene sequencing machine) and continues to be one of the leading researchers and thinkers in the genetic engineering and biotechnology revolution. Hood is thinking about the next step: bioinformatics.

BACKROUND: Bioinformatics is the use of information technology to store and analyze genetic information. Bioinformatic researchers develop and apply computing tools to extract the secrets of the life and death of organisms from the genetic blueprints and molecular structure stored in digital collections. Traditionally, biology research begins with a hypothesis. A biologist then collects experimental data and analyzes them to support or disprove the hypothesis.

However, information technology is changing this sequence of events. Today, large-scale exploratory experiments are gathering as much data as possible. The Human Genome Project, for example, is creating an inventory of all 3 billion amino acids in the human genetic blueprint. So now when a biologist forms a hypothesis, the data may already be in such a collection, just a computer search away.

Bioinformatics is expected to help scientists discover the genetic basis of many diseases and accelerate the development of more effective pharmaceutics to combat them.

Bioscience and Medical Technology Primer

Where biology of the past has been studying one gene and one protein at a time, systems biology attempts to define all of the elements that are involved in a particular function, and to figure out how they are interconnected. It requires what we call global tools – that is, tools that can look at many genes or many proteins at a time to see how their behavior changes.

Dr. Hood’s laboratory has evolved over the past three decades toward a view that systems biology is the key to understanding the biological codes that shape the development and differentiation of cells and organisms. Through the combined efforts of mathematicians, engineers and biologists, important new tools for biological research and new ways of thinking about biological processes will emerge. In this way, the Institute for Systems Biology will provide a focal point for really substantive innovations in biology and medicine.

Dr. Leroy Hood is recognized as one of the world’s leading scientists in molecular biotechnology and genomics. The former William Gates III Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Washington, Hood founded the University’s Department of Molecular Biotechnology in 1992. A passionate and dedicated researcher, he holds numerous patents and awards for his scientific breakthroughs and prides himself on his life-long commitment to making science accessible and understandable to the general public, especially children. One of his foremost goals is bringing hands-on, inquiry-based science to K-12 classrooms.

Dr. Hood earned an M.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1968. Since then, his research has focused on the study of molecular immunology and biotechnology. Dr. Hood has published more than 500 peer-reviewed papers and co-authored textbooks in biochemistry, immunology, molecular biology and genetics. He also co-edited Code of Codes a book discussing scientific, social and ethical issues raised by genetic research. Dr. Hood is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Association of Arts and Sciences.

His professional career began at Caltech, where he and colleagues pioneered four instruments that constitute the technological foundation for contemporary molecular biology. One of the instruments has revolutionized genomics by allowing the rapid automated sequencing of DNA. Dr. Hood also was one of the first advocates and is a key player in the Human Genome Project — the quest to decipher the sequence of human DNA.