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Russ B. Altman

Academic Appointments

  • Kenneth Fong Professor and Professor of Bioengineering, of Genetics, of Medicine (General Medical Discipline) and, by courtesy, of Computer Science

Contact Information

  • Academic Offices
    Personal Information
    Email Tel (650) 725-0659 Tel (650) 725-3394
    Alternate Contact
    Tiffany Murray Administrative Associate Tel Work 650-725-0659


Dr. Altman's primary interests are in the application of computing technologies to basic molecular biological problems, now referred to as bioinformatics. He is particularly interested in the analysis of protein and RNA structure and function, both in an individual problem-centered manner and on a functional genomic scale. He has an interest in applying systems biology concepts to pharmacology and personalized medicine. His core initial work was the development of probabilistic algorithms for the determination of protein structure from sparse and uncertain experimental data. These algorithms have been shown to have some advantages over other methods of structure determination including the ability to calculate not only a protein conformation, but also an explicit estimate of the uncertainty in the position of each atom. His current efforts are in three areas. First, he is interested in techniques for representing biological knowledge (not just data) for automatic scientific computation. His group is working on representing the contents of the scientific literature for pharmacogenomics ( in order to support the task of building robust models of biological systems. As part of this work, the group is also interested in novel user interfaces to biological data, and computational architectures for knowledge environments. Second, he is interested in the analysis of microenvironments within macromolecules. In particular, his group is developing methods for statistically analyzing related structures to infer the key conserved features that distinguish these structures from unrelated structures. This work has implications for the recognition of functional sites in proteins, for protein engineering, and for drug design ( Finally, he is interested in physics-based simulation of biological structures, particularly RNA and proteins. Within this broad area, our focus has been on creating coarse-grain representations of RNA, and on combining machine learning and informatics methods with simulation to maximize the performance of each (

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Member, Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), NIH (2013 - 2016)
  • Chair, FDA Science Board (2013 - present)
  • Chairman, Department of Bioengineering (2007 - 2012)
  • Director, Biomedical Informatics Training Program (2000 - present)
  • President, American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (2013 - 2014)
  • President, International Society for Computational Biology (2000 - 2001)
View All 7administrative appointments of Russ Altman

Honors and Awards

  • Fellow, International Society for Computational Biology (2010)
  • Member, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (2009)
  • Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2007)
  • Fellow, American College of Physicians (1998)
  • U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists & Engineers, NIH (1997)
  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (1991)
View All 8honors and awards of Russ Altman

Professional Education

AB: Harvard College, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (1983)
PhD: Stanford University, Medical Information Sciences (1989)
MD: Stanford University, Medicine (1990)

Community and International Work

Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

I am interested in the application of computational technologies to problems in molecular biology of relevance to medicine. In particular, my laboratory focuses on drug response at the molecular level, working in three areas. First, we are building a comprehensive pharmacogenomics knowledge base ( that provides access to information relating genotype to phenotype (in particular, how variation in genetics leads to variation in response to drugs). We are interested in collaboratively discovering and applying new pharmacogenomics knowledge. Second, we are interested in the analysis of three dimensional biological structures. We have methods for analyzing protein structures to recognize and annotate active sites and binding sites, particularly in the context of interactions with small molecule drugs. We are also interested in physics-based simulation of biological structures to understand how their dynamics impact their function ( Finally, we are interested in computational methods for analyzing functional genomics information. We use natural language processing techniques for extracting and summarizing information in the literature, chemoinformatics methods for understanding small molecule function, and machine learning & data mining techniques to understand the molecular responses to drugs.




Prior Year Coursescourses of Russ Altman

Postdoctoral Advisees

Assaf GottliebHaruka ItakuraDavid KurtzYong Li

Graduate and Fellowship Program Affiliations



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Publication Topics

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