The founding director of Virginia Tech's Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Bruno Sobral, will step down effective March 2. Sobral will remain on staff to continue his scientific work in cyberinfrastructure and pathosystems biology.

“Bruno’s vision and extraordinary scientific talent have enabled the tremendous growth of VBI (Virginia Bioinformatics Institute) from only a concept in the late ‘90s to one of the two largest research institutes in the university today. We are grateful for his significant contributions in making VBI respected around the world,” said Charles W. Steger, president.

Steger has asked Sobral, who is a world recognized scientist, to focus his efforts on securing large-scale grants critical to advancing the university’s strategic research agenda and expanding the VBI sponsored-research portfolio.

With more than $97 million in active sponsored research and an annual budget of $27 million, VBI is one of the largest research centers at Virginia Tech. It employs about 240 people.

Sobral was appointed director in 2000. He is director of the PathoSystems Biology Group and the Cyberinfrastructure Group. He also holds appointments as professor, Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and adjunct professor of Cancer Biology, Comprehensive Cancer Center, at Wake Forest University.

Paul Knox, former dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies will assume the role of interim director while the university undertakes an international search for the director. Knox is a University Distinguished Professor and serves as Senior Fellow for International Advancement.

VBI is a research institute dedicated to the study of the biological sciences. The research platform of VBI focuses on the "disease triangle" of host-pathogen-environment interactions. By using bioinformatics, which combines transdisciplinary approaches to information technology and biology, researchers at VBI interpret and apply vast amounts of biological data generated from basic research to some of today’s key challenges in the biomedical, environmental and agricultural sciences. Work at VBI involves collaboration in diverse disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, biology, plant pathology, biochemistry, systems biology, statistics, economics, and synthetic biology.

The institute develops genomic, proteomic and bioinformatic tools that can be applied to the study of infectious diseases as well as the discovery of new vaccine, drug and diagnostic targets.