Harvard Medical School (HMS) has named Robert Gentleman as the center's founding executive director.

Gentleman, an accomplished statistician and computational scientist with extensive experience in academia and industry, most recently served as vice president of computational biology at the genetic testing company 23andMe. In his new role, which he assumed in July 2020, Gentleman will conceptualize the scientific vision for computational biomedicine across HMS and lead the execution of this vision. He will also bring his decades-long experience in developing software tools, user interfaces, and underlying statistical and computational methods to this new role.


"Robert’s tenure in both academia and industry, combined with his restless intellect and passion for discovery and medicine, make him a superb choice to lead the center into the critical next stage of data science at Harvard Medical School and in doing so, help advance the School’s mission toward transforming human health,”

~George Q. Daley, Dean of Harvard Medical School


Gentleman joined 23andMe to help launch the company’s therapeutics division. There, he built a team of leading computational biologists working to develop novel methods for identifying links between genetic loci and possible drug targets. Prior to 23andMe, Gentleman was senior director for bioinformatics and computational biology at the biotech giant Genentech, where he infused computation and data analysis into drug development and studies of immune cell function.


“Robert combines a deep knowledge of machine learning and computational science with an unsurpassed breadth of leadership experience to lead the Center for Computational Biomedicine. He has the vision to propel scientific discovery at scales from molecules to populations in the service of the Harvard Medical School mission to improve human health.”

~Stephen Blacklow, Chair, Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, HMS 


Prior to Genentech, Gentleman was head of computational biology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and has held academic positions at Harvard University, the University of Auckland and the University of Waterloo. While at Harvard, Gentleman was associate professor of biostatistics at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Gentleman is the co-creator of the programing language R, which is widely used by statisticians and data miners for developing statistical software and data analysis for a range of applications in a variety of disciplines. Gentleman is a founder of the Bioconductor Project, an open-source collaborative software tool designed to promote statistical analysis and comprehension of current and emerging genomic data. Gentleman, who was born and raised in Canada, completed his undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of British Columbia and went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in statistics from the University of Washington. His research interests include statistics, machine learning, reproducible research, computational science, genome biology and genetics.


“Over the last decade, data science and computation have reshaped both biomedical discovery and the practice of clinical medicine and will be increasingly important for generating insights relevant to human health. With Robert at its helm, the Center for Computational Biomedicine is greatly positioned to lead this evolution.” 

~Isaac Kohane, Chair, Department of Biomedical Informatics, HMS