Shameer Khader – Laureate of the 2017 SIB Bioinformatics Resource Innovation Award

At the time of the award, Shameer Khader was a Staff Scientist in the team of Joel Dudley at the Icahn Institute of Genetics and Genomic Sciences, where he and colleagues developed the resource “RepurposeDB – Reference Database of Drug Repositioning Investigations”, a database that collects information on drugs that were “repurposed”, i.e. drugs that are used to treat diseases different from those they were originally developed for.

Today, Shameer is the Senior Director of Data Science and Bioinformatics at AstraZeneca. He is leading a data science team to optimise the cost, efficiency and output of drug discovery, conducting research and building models and tools supporting researchers. To learn more about his research interests, have a look at Shameer’s profile on ResearchGate and follow @kshameer 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 interest of your research at this time point?

It was a great experience for all of us behind RepurposeDB to receive the award from SIB. We often discuss it when we meet among colleagues. At that time, I was a Staff Scientist in Dr. Joel Dudley's group at Icahn Institute of Genetics and Genomic Sciences and was working on several projects in the area of data-driven precision medicine.

Switzerland is famous for quality, design and innovation; Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics is a pioneer in the field of Bioinformatics. For almost 16 years, I am using tools and databases in the SIB catalogue, it was an amazing experience to receive the award from SIB. I consider the SIB award as one the most important award in the field of Bioinformatics.

How has the resource developed since then? Do you have an example of a study in which your resource was used?

RepurposeDB is currently maintained by the Dudley Lab and will be updated with new content and features in the next release. The manuscript describing RepurposeDB and the collective insight we gained from the data is published in Briefings in Bioinformatics (Khader et al., 2017).

Based on the articles citing our work, we believe that drug development researchers are using RepurposeDB for drug discovery research across different therapeutic areas (inflammation, Parkinson's disease, pain etc.). In addition, the resource appears to be useful for the development of therapies using target biology uncovered by GWAS (Turner et al., 2018). Because the data in RepurposeDB is of high quality and curated, computational biologist can also explore the data using machine learning approaches (Xie et al., 2018, arXiv). While we don't track the usage of RepurposeDB in detail, we received encouraging comments about the resource from ResearchGate - a social network designed for scientists.

What are your current research interests?

Translational Bioinformatics, Computational Medicine, Healthcare Data Science, Drug Discovery

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

The "Human Genome Project"

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to spend time with my family, enjoy driving, listen to music and currently taking some DJ classes.

Any words for the future generation of bioinformaticians?

Bioinformaticians have a unique skill set that transcends the boundaries of classical definition of disciplines (biology and computing). It is a foundation for precision medicine. I believe bioinformaticians will be an integral part of the healthcare ecosystem in the near future. It's your time to be creative, solve challenging problems and make an impact!