Giants in genomics: Janet Thornton

Professor Dame Janet Thornton was director of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), which shares the Wellcome Genome Campus with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, from 2001 to 2015. 

Born in the UK on the 23rd May 1949, Janet Thornton is one of the world’s leading researchers in structural bioinformatics. Bioinformatics is an important field within biology that looks to develop computer software to help generate biological knowledge.

Janet studied physics at the University of Nottingham. She then went on to complete a master’s degree in biophysics at King’s College London as part of her PhD at the National Institute of Medical Research.

Janet Thornton was director of EMBL-EBI from 2001 to 2015.
Image credit: European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI)

She has worked at the University of Oxford, National Institute of Medical Research, Birkbeck College (part of the University of London) and University College London. She is now at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory - European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus and was the EMBL-EBI director from 2001 until 2015.

Janet has been director of the European Bioinformatics Institute since 2001.

The European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), a basic research institute funded by 21 member states across Europe. The European Bioinformatics Institute is committed to making all of the data they look after and the bioinformatics services they provide, freely available to all to help promote scientific progress. They make huge contributions to the advancement of biology through the development of open source cutting-edge technology.

The EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus near Cambridge.
Image credit: EMBL-EBI

The focus of Janet’s work at the European Bioinformatics Institute is on understanding the structure and function of proteins with the help of novel software tools. Throughout her career she has played a vital role in developing many of the tools now used across the globe for looking at protein structures and how they have evolved.

Janet was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999.

In 1999, Janet was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2000, she was awarded a CBE and, in 2012, was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for her services to bioinformatics.  Janet stepped down as Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute in 2015.

This page was last updated on 2016-10-11