The VICC.ORG Investigator Directory

David L. Tabb, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Biomedical Informatics
VICC Member
Mass Spectrometry Bioinformaticist

Contact Information:

Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Learned Lab / MRB III, Room U9211, 465 21st Ave. S.
Nashville, TN 37232-8575
Fax: 615-343-8372


The Tabb Laboratory designs and evaluates algorithms in support of clinical proteomics. In brief, proteomics is the science of identifying and characterizing all proteins in complex mixtures. Since most biological processes involve the action of proteins, knowing which proteins take part can often tell much of the story of a biological process. In most proteomics experiments, we begin by digesting proteins with enzymes, yielding peptides. We generate tandem mass spectra of these peptides that reveal the structure of these molecules. Our software then matches a sequence to each spectrum or deduces the sequence directly from the observed ions. The challenge of identification has been an active area of research for more than a decade, and yet many problems remain.


Our group is also interested in the emerging science of lipidomics, which addresses the problems of identifying lipids in complex mixtures. Lipidomics has huge potential to aid in our understanding of digestive and metabolic disease. This field, however, has not been actively supported by bioinformatics. We hope to build some of the fundamental tools that will support lipid identification and quantification through mass spectrometry.


  • Ph.D. Molecular Biotechnology from University of Washington
  • B.S. Major: Biology, Minor: Computer Science from University of Arkansas

Research Specialty:

Identification of peptide or lipid mixtures via tandem mass spectrometry.

Research Description:

Tandem mass spectrometry provides sensitive, high-throughput data from complex mixtures of biomolecules. Individual spectra (ms/ms) show the fragments produced by fragmenting an individual peptide or lipid. Bioinformatic tools reveal the sequences of peptides or the composition of lipid species by analyzing the fragment ions in each spectrum. Likewise, data mining tools assemble the results for collections of spectra to give a higher-level characterization of samples. My laboratory is focused on the creation and improvement of tools to propel systems biology via mass spectrometry.


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