Lecturer and Bioinformatician

University of Leicester


Email address: timbeck@le.ac.uk

Dr Tim Beck

Community Member


Dr Tim Beck is a bioinformatician interested in phenotype semantics and how biological, biomedical and clinical observation data can be understood and compared by computers using ontologies. Tim has applied this interest to different species during his career to date.

Tim completed his bioinformatics PhD developing a phenotype ontology for fission yeast at the University of Sussex in 2007. This was followed by a Career Development Fellowship with the Mammalian Genetics Unit at MRC Harwell working on projects to enable the annotation of mouse phenotypes with ontologies in online databases. He then took up a postdoctoral position at the University of Leicester focussing on the integration and comparison of human genotype and phenotype data.

After a spell gaining data science experience as a Research Associate, Tim attained a UKRI Innovation Fellowship. Hosted by the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, the fellowship involved studying the role of ontologies in accelerating the harmonisation and integration of clinical and health data. Following this, he was appointed as a lecturer in 2021. Tim works at both the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Glenfield Hospital and the Adrian Building on the University campus.

Tim’s main focus is the use of semantics to connect health-related big data to enable them to be aligned and compared, and for larger participant/sample sets to be discovered for analysis. This involves developing methods and tools to harmonise both structured and unstructured data.

To be able to automatically compare quantitative and qualitative values across big data, computers need to know if the values have the same meaning between data sets, and the semantic rigour required to do this at scale is enabled by the application of ontologies.

Tim leads the development of the world’s largest open-access genome-wide association study database, GWAS Central (https://www.gwascentral.org). The resource provides advanced tools to allow visualisation, interrogation and comparison of summary-level genetic association data sets from the perspective of genes, genome regions and phenotypes.

Tim and his team develop natural language processing tools to extract biomedical information from unstructured data. Through an ELIXIR funded project, text mining algorithms are being applied to the scientific literature to support GWAS Central biocuration activities.

  • Mammalian genetic association data
  • Phenotype semantics and ontologies
  • Biomedical text analytics

He is the primary supervisor of a current PhD project: Unlocking the potential of biomedical data to understand the causes of disease, and has supervised or co-supervised over 15 Masters projects.

Tim is keen to supervise future students (PhD and Masters) in the areas detailed on the Research tab.

His teaching includes bioinformatics lectures and practical workshops for Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) masterclasses, and the Natural Sciences NS3023 module.

  • Member of the ELIXIR-UK Management and Steering Committees
  • Co-founder and co-lead of the ELIXIR Health Data Focus Group

Additional HDR Midlands Team Members

Firoza Davies

Patient & Public Representative
East Midlands

Mr Colin Monckton

Director of Performance and Information
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Rachel Caswell

Senior Healthcare Analyst
Midlands Analyst Network Lead Strategy Unit

Kathie McPeake

Macmillan Living with Cancer Programme Manager
NHS Lincolnshire Integrated Care Board