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ISCB Accomplishments by a Senior Scientist Award Keynote

Ruth Nussinov

Ruth Nussinov

National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health,
United States;
School of Medicine, Department of Human Genetics, Tel Aviv University,

Presentation Title: A woman’s computational biology journey
Time: Tuesday July 10, 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

The ISCB Accomplishments by a Senior Scientist Award recognizes leaders in the fields of computational biology and bioinformatics for their significant research, education, and service contributions. Ruth Nussinov is being honored as the 2018 winner of the Accomplishment by a Senior Scientist Award.


From the dynamic programming algorithm to fold RNA, to unraveling the hallmarks of oncogenic signaling, it has been a long and fascinating journey which aspired to tackle significant and pressing questions where computational biology can make a difference. My adventures began when revolutionary sequencing methods produced the first long DNA sequences with the development of an efficient algorithm to fold RNA, followed by pioneering bioinformatic DNA sequence analyses. They continued with the principles of protein-protein interactions and harnessing the unraveled interface architectures for prediction, and proposing fundamental biophysical principles based on a dynamic view of protein conformational ensembles. This view led us to suggest that all (dynamic) proteins are allosteric, and the universal “conformational selection and population shift” mechanism in molecular recognition, replacing the text-book “induced-fit” paradigm. Finally, my inspirational journey confronts oncogenic Ras signaling, a problem at the center of the NCI initiative, which will be the focus of my talk.


Ruth Nussinov is the Senior Principal Scientist and Principal Investigator at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health and a Professor in the Department of Human Genetics, School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. Nussinov received her B.Sc in Microbiology from University of Washington in 1966, her M.Sc in Biochemistry from Rutgers University in 1967 and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Rutgers in 1977.

Besides her work on nucleic acid secondary structure prediction, Nussinov is also regarded as a pioneer in DNA sequence analysis for her work in the early 1980s. Nussinov’s algorithm for the prediction of RNA secondary structure is still the leading method. She proposed ‘Conformational Selection and Population Shift’ as an alternative to the textbook ‘Induced-Fit’ model in molecular recognition. Her recent studies unveiled the key role of allostery under normal conditions and in disease and the principles of allosteric drug discovery.

Dr. Nussinov serves as the Editor-in-Chief of PLOS Computational Biology and she is an elected Fellow of the Biophysical Society and the International Society for Computational Biology. She is a Highly Cited Researcher (ranking among the top 3000 researchers or 1% across all fields according to Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators, http://highlycited.com/ December 2015), earning them the mark of exceptional impact.

She also won an award from the AACR in 2017 for her paper on The Key Role of Calmodulin in KRAS-Driven Adenocarcinomas.