ANU duo wins Eureka Prize for genomics software that armed humanity against COVID-19

Computing Research Impact

ANU duo wins Eureka Prize for genomics software that armed humanity against COVID-19
ANU duo wins Eureka Prize for genomics software that armed humanity against COVID-19

Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) have been recognised for their pivotal efforts in the battle against COVID-19 in Australia’s premier science awards, the 2023 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

At a gala event and awards ceremony last night at the Australian Museum in Sydney, Dr Minh Bui, from the ANU School of Computing, and Dr Robert Lanfear, ANU Research School of Biology, accepted the Australian Research Data Commons Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research Software.

“I am on the bus back to Canbera. It’s amazing and I still feel thrilled for this honour,” Dr Bui said. ”My first thoughts go to all the IQ-TREE 2 team members for their hard work. We all together made this win possible.”

“It was a huge surprise to win,” said Dr Lanfear. “And wonderful to attend the ceremony and meet so many inspiring people.” 

Dr Bui and Dr Lanfear combined their computer science and biology expertise to develop IQ-TREE 2. This free, open-source software turns DNA data into crucial evolutionary insights. It’s been used to investigate everything from understanding the origins of early life forms, to tracking the emergence and spread of variants of the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s wonderful to see research software getting more recognition,” Dr Lanfear added.

Even as software has played an increasinglly important role in the advancement of science, research software has been undervalued and underfunded. 

“A huge number of academics write incredible software, most of which (including our software IQ-TREE 2) is open source and free to use. Once you have a popular software package, it’s a huge ongoing job to maintain it, update it, and make sure you are serving the user community well,” Dr Lanfear said.

Find out more about the innovative IQ-TREE2 research from ANU: 
Eureka Prize winner reflects on software that armed humanity against COVID-19

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, now in their 33rd year, recognise the country’s brightest scientific minds. Winners were announced at a black-tie awards ceremony at the Australian Museum in Sydney, gathering hundreds of scientists from across the nation. A total of $180,000 in cash prizes was distributed among 18 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, celebrating outstanding achievements in Research and Innovation, Leadership, Science Engagement, and School Science.

Congratulations to Dr Bui and Dr Lanfear!

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