James Sharpe was originally captivated by computer programming, but upon learning about the digital nature of the genetic code, chose to study Biology for his undergraduate degree at Oxford University (1988-1991). He then did his PhD on the genetic control of embryo development at NIMR, London (1992-1997) and in parallel started writing computer simulations of multicellular development. During his post-doc in Edinburgh, he began modelling the dynamics of limb development, and also invented a new optical imaging technology called Optical Projection Tomography (OPT), which is dedicated to imaging specimens too large for microscopy - tissues and organs. In 2006 he moved to Barcelona, becoming a senior group leader at the Centre for Genomic Regulation, and focusing on a systems biology approach to modelling limb development – combining experimentation with computer modelling. In this way the group demonstrated that the signalling proteins which pattern the fingers during embryogenesis, act as a Turing reaction-diffusion system. In 2011 he became the coordinator of the Systems Biology Program, and in 2017 was recruited to EMBL as Head of the new Barcelona outstation on Tissue Biology and Disease Modelling.