Jaak Vilo, Institute of Computer Science, University of Tartu

Jaak Vilo

From compu­ta­tional biology to personalised medicine


Computational biology started pretty much from the analysis of very first biological DNA and protein sequences. Breakthroughs in methods for data generation and algorithms to analyse the ever increasing variety and volume of data promises to significantly improve or even disrupt the healthcare. The mix of classical algorithmic research and statistical machine learning and "artificial intelligence" methods are required to manage and make sense of such data. The true understanding of genetics, lifestyle and environment and all underlying molecular mechanisms is still elusive. Thus, the progress will be achieved through many contributions across several founding disciplines. For more precision in medicine the interdisciplinary efforts are needed. Computer science can and should contribute to this effort.


Jaak Vilo is a Professor of Bioinformatics at University of Tartu, Estonia. He earned his PhD in Computer Science at University of Helsinki, Finland. He first studied in Helsinki as an exchange student in 1989-90 and later as a PhD student and teaching and research assistant in 1991-1999. Focus of the thesis was in analysis of biological data – contributing both to the sequence motif discovery and functional genomics data analysis. In 1999-2002 he worked at the European Bioinformatics Institute, UK as one of the pioneers in early gene expression microarray data analytics. There he developed the Expression Profiler toolset for various biological data analysis tasks. In 2002, after 12 years abroad, he moved back to Estonia to help creating the Estonian Biobank and start his own research group BIIT. In 2007 he was elected as professor of Bioinformatics. His group focuses on analysis of various omics data types across abroad range of biological domains from cancer and stem cells to immunology and neurodegenerative diseases. A new direction is in studying electronic health records and preparing infrastructure for precision medicine applications. Jaak Vilo is an acting head of the Department of Computer Science (www.cs.ut.ee) at University of Tartu. He is a full member of Estonian Academy of Sciences and a member of Estonian Research Council evaluation board. He is also the head of Estonian node of ELIXIR, the European bioinformatics infrastructure.