Dr. David Sankoff is a leader in applying mathematical approaches to the study of genes and genomes. His early work on sequence comparison, multiple alignment and RNA secondary structure is at the forefront of modern computational biology and bioinformatics. In recent years he has elaborated a program for the mathematical study of genome evolution and his ideas on the subject form the basis for much of the advanced work in the area. The projects he will undertake as Canada Research Chair in Mathematical Genomics will seek to expand this field on several fronts including: the probabilistic modelling of the evolution of bacteria, protists and higher organisms; and the consequences of mechanisms like gene duplication, hybridization and lateral transfer for gene order evolution.
The development of models will allow statistical analysis and tests for a variety of questions pertaining to functional, historical and random proximities of genes. Comparing models with empirical data also promises to contribute to understanding phenomena as diverse as speciation, infertility due to chromosomal rearrangement, and chromosomal aberrations in neoplasms.
As in some of his earlier work, Dr. Sankoff will also focus on the design and analysis of algorithms for genome comparison, particularly to solve the difficult problems raised by the incorporation of multigene families into existing methods. He plans to integrate the empirical knowledge gained in his statistical projects into the algorithms in the form of parameters for the type, size, location and frequency of gene rearrangement events.
As part of his project, Dr. Sankoff will also establish a research centre for innovation in bioinformatics that will contribute to the development of a genomic research cluster at the University of Ottawa.