Dr. James Ostell was first trained in traditional developmental biology and microscopy. He then earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University studying molecular biology. At Harvard he cloned and sequenced at the bench, and also developed software tools for analyzing sequence data. He then developed and supported a commercial package of software for molecular biologists called MacVector, first released in 1982, and still in use today.
In 1988, Dr. Ostell took a position as the Chief of the Information Engineering Branch at the newly formed National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health. In 1996, he was one of only 12 tenured NIH scientists to be appointed to the Senior Biomedical Research Service.
Under his direction, the NCBI Information Engineering Branch has produced a central computer infrastructure for biomedical information, covering the published literature, DNA and protein sequences, three-dimensional structures of biological molecules, assemblies of complete organism genomes, human genetics and phenotypes, and more.
More that 2 million unique users a month use the NCBI on-line services and the NCBI user community has grown from a base of molecular biology researchers to include physicians, educators, and the general public. Some of the best-known resources provided by NCBI include GenBank, Entrez, PubMed, BLAST, dbEST, UniGene, dbSNP, LocusLink, RefSeq, Human Genome Resources, and many others.