Zoltán Kutalik – Laureate of the 2008 SIB Early Career Bioinformatician Award

Zoltán Kutalik was the first laureate to receive the SIB Early Career Bioinformatician Award in 2008 for his post-doctoral work in the team of SIB Group Leader Sven Bergmann at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland). Zoltán received the Award for his work on the “Development of a computational tool which may eventually allow scientists to predict the sensitivity of different patients to a range of drugs”.

More than ten years later, Zoltán has become an Associate Professor at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP) at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) and honorary senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, UK. He is successfully leading his own group developing statistical methods to decipher the genetic architecture of complex human traits. You can find out more about Zoltán and his work by visiting the Statistical Genetics Group webpage, or by following him (@zkutalik) on Twitter.

About the SIB Bioinformatics Awards and our interview series “Meet the past SIB Awards Laureates”

Started in 2008 as an initiative to distinguish young bioinformaticians in Switzerland, the SIB Bioinformatics Awards have gone a long way since: from a single national award to three different prizes today, honouring 1) international early career bioinformaticians (SIB Early Career Bioinformatician Award), 2) excellency within the Swiss PhD community (SIB Best Swiss Bioinformatics Graduate Paper Award) and 3) innovative bioinformatics resources (SIB Bioinformatics Resource Innovation Award). Throughout the years, 21 awards have been presented, with nine laureates recognized for their outstanding early career, ten Graduate students for their excellent publication and two bioinformatics resources for their innovative aspect. 
In 2019, the SIB Bioinformatics Awards will be presented for the 10th time, providing a great occasion to reach out to past laureates and ask them where they are now in their career: this interview is part of a series inviting you to meet past SIB Bioinformatics Awards laureates.

At which point of your career were you when you received the SIB Award? How did it feel? What was the key focus of your research then?

I was an early-stage post-doc when I received the award, which was a tremendous honour. I was humbled by the recognition back then and even more now in the light of the other awardees of the past decade. At that time, my research aimed to identify gene expression patterns predicting drug response of cancer cell lines.

What are your current research interests?

My current research focusses on the identification of genetic subgroups of diseases, deciphering the genetic basis of longevity, detecting gene-environment interactions and developing causal inference methods in the field of complex trait genetics. In our group, we apply our own developed methods to large-scale population cohorts with clinical and genetic data.

In your personal opinion, what is the single most fascinating discovery made possible by bioinformatics?

I find the Human Genome Project a great example of where bioinformatics played a key role and it is hard to imagine any human genetics project that would not rely on its discoveries and generated knowledge.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love running, climbing, skiing, hiking, travelling and reading. But the quantity has now been adapted to being a father of two small kids and I tend to do more Lego building, puzzles, train tracks, bouldering, cycling, etc.

Any words for the future generation of bioinformaticians?

You guys couldn't have been born at a better time! The bio- and computer technology is developing at a revolutionary pace. Tons of high-quality data is within easy reach for everyone. Find your passion and don't be shy to change your interest. You will advance bioinformatics far more than the previous generations could!