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Dr. Inanc Birol, PhD

Distinguished Scientist, Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer

Phone 604-707-5800
Fax 604-876-3561


Professor, Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia
Associate Faculty, Computer Science, University of British Columbia
Associate Faculty, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of British Columbia
Associate Scientist, Public Health Lab, BC Centre for Disease Control

Professional Profile

Dr. Inanc Birol is a distinguished scientist at Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, a professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Department of Medical Genetics, an associate member of the Departments of Computer Science, and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC, and an adjunct scientist at BC Centre for Disease Control. Previously, he held research faculty and associate positions at Simon Fraser University, Illinois Institute of Technology and CERN – the latter, a knowledge centre for understanding the universe and home to the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.

To date, Dr. Birol's team has accelerated research with over 140 publications, which have practical applications in both ecosystems and human biology, including medical genomics. As of 2018, he is listed among the top 1% cited scientist in the world by Clarivate Analytics in the Cross-Field category.

Dr. Birol’s research interests include the analysis of data from modern sequencing instruments to study genomes and transcriptomes of model species and humans. He directs the Bioinformatics Technology Lab, which develops bioinformatics tools for de novo sequence assembly, sequence mapping, downstream data analysis and visualization. He also directs a wet lab at BC Centre for Disease Control to study antimicrobial resistance and to develop novel strategies as alternatives to conventional antibiotics.

Research Projects

Short read sequencing

Over the last decade, technological advances have made DNA sequencing a routine and cost-effective method in many fields of life sciences research. The dominant technology today generates billions of short sequences called “reads” consisting of 75-250 bases. Dr. Birol's lab builds high throughput analysis methods to process large volumes of reads in diverse DNA sequencing projects, from high profile international cancer genome mapping initiatives to the generation of reference genomes of non-model species.

Long read sequencing

New technologies generate information as long or linked reads. Long read platforms can sequence over 100,000 base pairs per read, though with a very high error rate and increasing throughput. Bioinformatics tools can leverage the rich information provided by these technologies, opening new frontiers in health research. Dr. Birol’s group develop specialized tools that quickly, accurately and efficiently map, assemble and analyze long and linked sequence reads.

Spruce Genomics

Spruce trees are Canada’s most significant forest resource. Spruces produce high quality wood and fibre that is widely used in the industry, and as dominant species of Canada’s forests, they provide essential local and global ecosystem services. The Birol lab is collaborating with multiple organizations across Canada to build genomic resources for the species. 

Antimicrobial Peptide Discovery

Bacteria rapidly evolve to develop resistance to antibiotics, presenting a growing and very dangerous problem. Without improved management strategies and the development of alternatives to antibiotics, bacterial diseases could once again be untreatable and many standard treatments, including surgical operations, could become unusable. To boost the search for new treatment options, in a collaborative project Dr. Birol’s group is focusing on short proteins called antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which are produced naturally by various animal and plant species. These host defense proteins can protect against infection or reduce the harm caused by an existing infection.

Alternative Polyadenylation

The length of a coding transcript’s tail end (3’ UTR) can affect its stability, transport and translation, with important regulatory consequences. Alternative cleavage of transcripts at the 3’ UTR (alternative polyadenylation) is a difficult to study phenomenon, often requiring specialized and relatively expensive experimental methods. As a solution to this problem, Dr. Birol’s group is building bioinformatics tools using standard transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) datasets to catalogue alternative polyadenylation in large cancer cohorts.

Clinical bioinformatics

Substantial advancements in healthcare economics can be realized through the development of genomics technologies to detect variations and mutations in DNA and RNA in a manner that allows effective preventative care and/or efficient diagnosis and treatment. One technology that will enable this vision is high throughput DNA and RNA sequencing. This requires proper downstream data analysis and interpretation. To address this challenge, Dr. Birol’s group is building and validating bioinformatics pipelines for clinical use. In collaborative projects, they are deploying these pipelines for cancer care and diagnosis of rare genetic diseases.

More information about the Birol lab is available here.


Click here for select publications 

Click here for Inanc Birol on Google Scholar