Source: Interfolio F180

Arthur Olson

Anderson Research Chair
Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology


Research Focus

Biomolecular Interactions

The principal objectives of this laboratory are to develop and apply computational and computer visualization techniques in the study of biomolecular interactions. The growing database of three-dimensional protein and nucleic acid structures highlights the need for new methods of analyzing and predicting molecular interactions and environments. Our focus is on protein-substrate interactions in drug design, protein-protein recognition and binding in oligomer formation, and the modeling of cellular environments at the molecular scale.

We have developed a number of computational techniques for visualizing and analyzing protein structure and properties. We have recently developed new computational methods for constructing mesoscale models of cellular environments that integrate information from a variety of experimental methods and scales. We have also been involved with the development of novel visualization software that enables the exploration of complex molecular cell models containing millions of individual biomolecules. Other visualization research in the lab involves the use of 3D printing and augmented reality technology to create new ways to interact with the molecular world, for both research and education.

We continue the development of techniques to predict protein interactions. Our AutoDock and AutoDock Vina codes use efficient global and local search procedures to dock flexible substrates into protein active sites. These codes are distributed worldwide to 10's of thousands of users. We are expanding these techniques to the design of new inhibitors and chemical probes, with a special focus on anti-HIV therapeutics and the evolution of drug resistance. Our FightAIDS@Home Internet distributed project, hosted by IBM, runs on over 2 million computers around the world.


Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1975

Professional Experience

Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, 1976-1979

Awards & Professional Activities

1964 Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, Michigan Regents Scholar
1964 Phi Lambda Upsilon Chemical Honor Society, Michigan Regents Scholar
1968 B.S. in Chemistry with Highest Honors, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
1976 Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship Award
1978 National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship Award
1985 Recipient of the George M. and Thelma B. Anderson Research Endowment
1999 Computer Graphics Pioneer for molecular visualizations and interviewed in the film "The Story of Computer Graphics"
2006 Honor by Resolution of the California State Legislature for FightAIDS@Home, TSRI (IBM)
2007 Distinguished Fellowship, Institute of Advanced Studies, Durham Universtiy, UK

Selected Publications

Johnson, G. T.; Goodsell, D. S.; Autin, L.; Forli, S.; Sanner, M. F.; Olson, A. J. 3D molecular models of whole HIV-1 virions generated with cellPACK. Faraday Discussions 2014, 169, 23-44.

Trott, O.; Olson, A. J. AutoDock Vina: improving the speed and accuracy of docking with a new scoring function, efficient optimization, and multithreading. Journal of Computational Chemistry 2010, 31, 455-461.

Morris, G. M.; Huey, R.; Lindstrom, W.; Sanner, M. F.; Belew, R. K.; Goodsell, D. S.; Olson, A. J. AutoDock4 and AutoDockTools4: automated docking with selective receptor flexibility. Journal of Computational Chemistry 2009, 30, 2785-2791.

Gillet, A.; Sanner, M. F.; Stoffler, D.; Olson, A. J. Tangible interfaces for structural molecular biology. Structure 2005, 13, 483-491.