April 12, 2007 | Sean Eddy, a principal scientist at the new Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farm Research Campus in Northern Virginia, has won the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award in the Life Sciences. The annual award, bestowed by the Bioinformatics Organization (Bioinformatics.org), is presented to an individual who “promoted free and open access to the materials and methods used in the life sciences.”
Eddy is the open source author of HMMER. Its free distribution to academic and commercial users has revolutionized the use of profile Hidden Markov Models in protein sequence analysis. (Profile HMMs were introduced to bioinformatics by Anders Krogh and David Haussler.)
Bioinformatics.org president Jeff Bizzaro says that Eddy’s creation (together with Erick Sonnhammer) and subsequent development (along with Alex Bateman and colleagues) of the Pfam family database was an essential counterpart to the basis of genome annotations, family classification systems such as GO, and much of the common language of protein annotation. Eddy also did pioneering work on small RNAs, helping to launch this exploding field. Many of his open-access software tools and analyses have had important effects on the field of bioinformatics.
Eddy was nominated by members of the 20,000-strong Bioinformatics Organization. The other finalists for the 2007 award were Robert Gentleman (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), who was pivotal in the development of the Bioconductor R module; Indiana University’s Don Gilbert, who established the IUBio Archive and many model organism databases; and Steven Salzberg (University of Maryland), a proponent of free sharing of data and software.
The award is named for Benjamin Franklin — scientist, inventor, statesman — who freely shared his ideas and refused to patent his inventions. Past Franklin laureates include Michael Ashburner (2006), Ewan Birney (2005), Lincoln Stein (2004), James Kent (2003) and Michael Eisen (2002).
Eddy will receive his award in a presentation at the Bio-IT World Conference & Expo, in Boston on May 2, and give the laureate lecture.
Subscribe to Bio-IT World magazine.