Bio21 Big Picture Seminar: Professor David Wishart - Why NMR Matters in Metabolomics

Friday, 29 July, 2016 - 13:00 to 14:00

What: Bio21 Big Picture Seminar: 'Why NMR Matters in Metabolomics'

When: 1-2 pm, Friday 29 July, followed by afternoon tea

Where: Auditorium, Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute, 30 Flemington Road, Parkville

RSVP: Please register your attendance here.


In principle, NMR is an ideal technique for metabolomics. It is non-destructive, non-biased, highly quantitative, requires no prior separation, permits the identification of novel compounds and needs no chemical derivatization.  However, relative to other analytical techniques NMR is slow and relatively insensitive.  Furthermore the identification and quantification of compounds in mixtures by NMR is manually intensive and often error-prone.  Because of these limitations, NMR is being supplanted by mass spectrometry for many metabolomic applications.  In this presentation I will highlight some recent developments in the field of NMR-based metabolomics and show how NMR can be used to match or even exceed the speed, sensitivity and metabolite coverage claimed by various mass spectrometry methods. In particular, I will describe our recent efforts to completely automate NMR-based metabolomics using a software program called Bayesil as well as NMR-based metabolomics kits that we are developing. I will also describe other activities being conducted both in our lab and elsewhere to: 1) enhance the sensitivity of NMR to nanomolar detection; 2) extend the capabilities of NMR to work with tiny samples; 3) provide new vistas for chemical and/or metabolite imaging; 4) measure both metabolites and proteins simultaneously and 5) facilitate novel compound identification and characterization. I will also show how NMR can – and should -- play a complementary role to mass spectrometry for metabolomics research, and that NMR still really matters in metabolomics.


David Wishart

Professor, Departments of Biological Sciences and Computing Science, University of Alberta
Director, The Metabolomics Innovation Centre (TMIC)

Dr. David Wishart (PhD Yale, 1991) is a Professor in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Computing Science at the University of Alberta. He also holds adjunct  appointments with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and with the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.  He has been with the University of Alberta since 1995. His research interests span many areas including metabolomics, bioinformatics, structural biology and NMR spectroscopy. His pioneering work regarding the analysis and interpretation of protein chemical shifts is well known (the chemical shift index) and he continues to develop novel methods to determine the 3D structures of peptides and proteins using only NMR chemical shift data. In addition to his work in biomolecular NMR, Dr. Wishart has become heavily involved in metabolomics research. For the past 10 years, he has led the “Human Metabolome Project” (HMP), a multi-university, multi-investigator project that is cataloguing all of the known metabolites in human tissues and biofluids. Using advanced methods in NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, multi-dimensional chromatography and machine learning Dr. Wishart and his colleagues have identified or found evidence for more than 42,000 metabolites in the human body. This information has been archived on a freely accessible web-resource called the Human Metabolome Database (HMDB). These efforts have also led his lab towards the development of novel metabolomics tools and techniques to better characterize metabolites in many other organisms and in many different matrices. Dr. Wishart has published more than 70 papers in the field of metabolomics and currently directs the Metabolomics Innovation Centre (TMIC), Canada’s national metabolomics laboratory.