Perhaps it’s because Bruce Weir is a known and respected NC State statistician. Or perhaps it’s because he served as an expert witness for the prosecution in the O.J. Simpson trials. Whatever the reason, Weir managed to attract top-shelf bioinformatics talent in early March for the opening of his Bioinformatics Research Center in Raleigh.
For a bioinformatics symposium, Weir lined up four computational biology luminaries: Washington University’s Sean Eddy, University of Washington’s Phil Green, GlaxoSmithKline veep David Searls, and David Haussler, from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Then, following an opening ceremony in one of the new facility’s unfinished rooms at which NC State Chancellor Marye Anne Fox presided, Whitehead Institute Director Eric Lander delivered a keynote lecture via satellite from Boston, where he was snowed in.
The big names were among some 400 people who traveled from far and wide to hear about the new NC State program, which emphasizes the development of statistical methods for studying data, particularly from gene expression and microarray studies. The program also stresses close industry involvement, with a number of Research Triangle Park partners such as SAS Institute, GlaxoSmithKline, and Paradigm Genetics. Phil Green said, “To be honest, I don’t know much about the program, so I came to find out.”
But Weir’s reputation might have had as much to do with attracting attendees. “Bruce is a famous, well-honored statistician,” says Bruno Sobral, director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, who has worked with Weir but did not attend the opening. “He knows a lot of people, he’s popular, and he’s well respected in the academic community.”
— John S. MacNeil