The Franke Program in Science and the Humanities and John Templeton Foundation

The Inference of Nature: Cause and Effect in Molecular Biology

Sarah Teichmann
August 2021
Monday 30th - 3:00pm

Theoretical approaches have always played an important role in biology, dating back to Mendel’s peas. In today’s era of genomics and big data in biology, statistical and computational tools are even more vital for biologists seeking to infer causation in living systems. To illustrate the range of methods, from modelling to machine learning, and how they contribute to understanding biological mechanisms, Dr. Teichmann will pick examples from some of the core problems her lab has been investigating as case studies. Starting with the assembly of proteins into complexes, she will move on to the single cell revolution in genomics and her quest to develop cell atlases of the human body. She will finish with her work leveraging these atlases to understand how COVID-19 affects the body. The examples will show how intertwined and complementary ‘wet’ (i.e. experimental) and ‘dry’ (i.e. computational/theoretical) approaches are in today’s biology.

The conversant for the August 31, 2021 discussion will be Neil Lawrence, the inaugural DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Cambridge.  He has been working on machine learning models for over 20 years.  He recently returned to academia after three years as Director of Machine Learning at Amazon.  Professor Lawrence’s main interest is the interaction of machine learning with the physical world.  This interest was triggered by deploying machine learning in the African context, where ‘end-to-end’ solutions are normally required.  This has inspired new research directions at the interface of machine learning and systems research, this work is funded by a Senior AI Fellowship from the Alan Turing Institute.  Professor Lawrence is also visiting Professor at the University of Sheffield and the co-host of Talking Machines.

Register in advance for this meeting and the August 31 discussion:
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About the Speaker

Sarah Teichmann

Head of Cellular Genetics Programme
Wellcome Sanger Institute, United Kingdom

Sarah Teichmann is interested in global principles of regulation of gene expression and protein complexes, with a focus on immunity. Sarah did her PhD at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK and was a Beit Memorial Fellow at University College London. She started her group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in 2001, discovering stereotypical pathways of assembly and evolution of protein complexes during this time. In 2013, she moved to the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton/Cambridge, jointly with the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute and the Wellcome Sanger Institute (WSI). In February 2016 she became Head of the Cellular Genetics Programme at the WSI and co-founded the Human Cell Atlas international initiative which she continues to lead. Sarah was elected a member of EMBO in 2012, a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2015 and a fellow of the Royal Society in 2020.

The conversant for the post-talk conversation is Neil Lawrence, the inaugural DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Cambridge.

More Information and Resources

Video of Talk

Sarah Teichmann (Speaker)


Sarah Teichmann (Speaker) & Neil Lawrence (Conversant)