Alumni Hall Of Fame

Granger Sutton

Photo of Granger Sutton
Graduation Year:
Competitive learning and map formation in artificial neural networks using competitive activation mechanisms

Granger Sutton received his PhD from the Computer Science Department at the University of Maryland in 1992 under the guidance of Professor James Reggia. His thesis work involved learning in neural networks.

Granger has had a distinguished career in research; he is one of the pioneers in the young field of computational biology. Following his degree he joined The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), a fledgling nonprofit research institution, where he worked on new algorithms for the clustering and alignments of proteins and expressed sequence tags (ESTs). The techniques he developed found new application in the assembly of whole genome shotgun data. Although TIGR’s grant proposal to sequence Haemophilus influenzae was rejected because whole genome shotgun assembly was believed to be algorithmically intractable, Granger’s software, the TIGR Assembler, was used, in 1995, to successfully assemble the Haemophilus influenzae genome -- the first complete whole genome of a free-living organism ever to be assembled. Numerous other microbial genomes were subsequently assembled using the TIGR assembler.

In 1998 Granger moved from TIGR to Celera Genomics and along with Gene Myers led the team that developed a whole genome assembly pipeline for large complex genomes. A founding goal of Celera Genomics was to quickly produce the sequence of the human genome using whole genome shotgun sequencing and assembly. This led to a competition with the federally funded human genome initiative that is chronicled in the book The Genome War by James Shreeve. As a test project, the whole genome shotgun assembly of the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) genome was undertaken, once again to predictions of failure. Despite successful assembly of Drosophila, the human genome was still predicted to be too complex to assemble using whole genome shotgun techniques. Even after successful assembly of the human genome by the Celera team, the accomplishment remained controversial for a time. However, shortly after Celera produced the first high quality mouse genome sequence, once again using whole genome shotgun sequencing and assembly, the genome sequencing community rapidly adopted Celera's methodology. As a director in the Informatics Research group, Granger also led efforts at Celera in comparative genomics.

In 2004 Granger joined the Bioinformatics Research team at the J. Craig Venter Institute where he worked on a variety of research efforts, including using "whole environment" shotgun DNA sequencing to characterize the microbial make-up of complex environments. This work evolved to include analysis of the entire known protein space using a novel clustering approach. Granger then focused on developing tools for pangenome analysis particularly for bacterial species. Granger has numerous publications in whole genome shotgun assembly, sequence alignment, comparative genomics, genome annotation, microbiome analysis, and pangenome analysis. He also holds multiple patents involving gene discovery and shotgun assembly algorithms. Granger joined the National Cancer Institute in 2023.

Granger resides in Maryland and enjoys playing disc golf with his two sons Kyle and Ryan.



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