Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

The 39th (2023) recipient


The 39th (2023) International Prize for Biology is awarded to
Dr. Richard Durbin,
Al Kindi Professor, Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

On August 25, the Committee on the International Prize for Biology (chaired by Dr. FUJIYOSHI Yoshinori, Distinguished Professor, Tokyo Medical and Dental University) decided to award the 39th (2023) International Prize for Biology to Dr. Richard Durbin, Al Kindi Professor, Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. This year's Prize is awarded in the field of the Biology of Genomes.
リチャード・ダービン 博士 (Dr. Richard Durbin)

Dr. Richard Durbin

Achievements Recognized by the Award

The  research field for the 39th International Prize for Biology is the “Biology of Genomes”. Genome biology, exemplified by genome analysis projects, has been a driving force behind innovative developments in biology in recent years, with the extensive datasets obtained rapidly transforming the field into a data-driven science.
Dr. Richard Durbin, Al Kindi Professor at the Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, has developed many foundational and innovative technologies in the bioinformatics field—a discipline that combines biology and informatics—that have underpinned the advancement of biology as a data-driven science, as well as led multiple international genomics projects. Dr. Durbin has authored more than 400 academic papers, which have been cited more than 280,000 times in total, highlighting the magnitude of this influence in the genome biology field.
Dr. Durbin's first major contribution to the field has been the development of a number of data analysis methods, databases, and data formats that have proved indispensable in deciphering the vast array of biological information hidden within the genome sequences of organisms, which at first glance appear to be nothing more than a “code” made up of an endless string of four ATCG nucleobase letters. These include key technologies such as Pfam, SAM/BAM, VCF, and bwa, which remain fundamental in modern genomics research. If indirect beneficiaries are included, it would be no exaggeration to state that virtually every researcher engaged in molecular biology today is benefiting from such technologies pioneered by Dr. Durbin. Another notable and important recent achievement is the development of PSMC/MSMC, a powerful data analysis method that makes it possible to infer the history of an organism's population based on limited genome data. Dr. Durbin has also had a significant impact on fields beyond biology, such as archaeology, with this method helping to reveal the population genetics history of humans after leaving Africa.
Dr. Durbin's second significant contribution has been leading the data analysis initiatives that have formed the core of milestone genome projects, including the analysis of the genome sequence of the nematode C. elegans—the first animal genome to be sequenced—and the analysis of protein-coding genes in the human genome sequence. Dr. Durbin has also dedicated his efforts to major genome projects in human populations, which provide some of the most important foundations for understanding human diversity and the mechanisms of genetic disease. More recently, he has demonstrated strong leadership in international research projects that have aimed to comprehensively sequence the genomes of a wide variety of the earth's organisms.
As described above, Dr. Durbin has made invaluable contributions to the field of genome biology throughout his career, and without his substantial accomplishments, the field would be in a substantially different state to where it stands today. Accordingly, the committee judged Dr. Durbin to be the worthiest researcher to receive the 39th International Prize for Biology in the field of “Biology of Genomes.”