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Wei Ding awarded Best Bioinformatics e-Poster Prize

PhD student receives prize for presentation of interactive computer program analyzing bacterial genomes

Tübingen, 19th of June 2017. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise throughout the world. More and more frequently, doctors and scientists must develop strategies on short notice to contain resistant bacteria. Even with the most modern genetic analysis techniques, it is extremely difficult to determine where resistant bacterial strains come from and what the best approach to combat them is, since, unlike humans, bacteria don’t just inherit genes from one generation to the next, but they can directly exchange them from one to another.

To assist doctors and scientists, Wei Ding, a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology developed the computer program “panX”. PanX can deal with the complexity of genomic data from bacteria. It develops models that describe how certain features could have spread among bacteria and displays the results in interactive diagrams. Taking a quick look at relevant details provided by the program, doctors and health officials would be able to determine how antibiotic resistance may have spread, opening the door to intervention measures.

Wei’s presentation of his research project at this year’s Applied Bioinformatics and Public Health Microbiology conference in Cambridge, England, attracted a lot of attention and earned him the highly competitive e-poster prize. This award comes on the heels of Wei’s poster prize at the PhD Symposium at the Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology last autumn. Wei states:” I hope PanX will be applied in academic and clinical settings, where it could help biologists and doctors identify genes responsible for antibiotic resistance or transmission”.

Richard Neher, Wei’s PhD advisor for the last two and a half years, has already demonstrated how promising such computer programs can be: The program “Nextstrain”, which he developed together with US scientist Trevor Bedford, can track the spread of viruses, such as Influenza or Ebola and make predictions about future genetic changes. In February, it was awarded the highly prestigious OpenSciencePrice, funded in part by the Gates Foundation. Richard explains the difference between the two programs:” Nextstrain is limited to viruses with short simple genomes. Wei created a powerful computer program for the complex genomes of bacteria”.


Original publication
bioRxiv: panX: pan-genome analysis and exploration
Autoren: Wei Ding, Franz Baumdicker and Richard A. Neher



Dagmar Sigurdardottir (Coordinator, International PhD Program)
Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
Telephone: 07071-601 333


Richard Neher
Biozentrum, University of Basel
Telephone: (+41) 61 207 20 66