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J. Craig Venter Institute Names Robert Friedman, Ph.D., Deputy Director of West Coast Facility

Other Key Senior Scientist Promotions Announced

ROCKVILLE, Md. and LA JOLLA, Calif., June 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, today announced that Robert Friedman, Ph.D., has been named the new Deputy Director of the JCVI La Jolla, California facility. The organization also announced the promotion of several key science leaders -- Karen Nelson, Ph.D., Samuel Levy, Ph.D., and Yu-Hui Rogers, in the Rockville, Maryland headquarters.

In his new role, Dr. Friedman will oversee day to day operations of JCVI La Jolla which currently has approximately 40 staff and scientists in 20,000 square feet of lab and office space who are engaged in synthetic, environmental and human genomic research. Plans are underway to build a new, carbon-neutral laboratory facility on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. If funding can be secured to build this state-of-the art facility, it will be the first laboratory building of its kind in the U.S. and will house approximately 125 staff and scientists.

Friedman was Vice President for Public Policy and has been with JCVI since 2003. In this role, he was instrumental in forming the Institute's Policy Center which has focused primarily on the policy implications of the JCVI's work in synthetic genomics. In 2007 he and his team, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with funding from the Sloan Foundation, published the results of a 20 month study focused on the options for governance of the field of synthetic genomics. He has also been a key contributor on several research projects related to the Institute's environmental genomics work.

Prior to joining JCVI, Friedman was Vice President for Research at The Heinz Center, a nonprofit environmental policy research organization. Earlier he was a Senior Associate at the Office of Technology Assessment, United States Congress (OTA) where he advised Congressional committees on environmental and natural resources policy.

Friedman received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in Ecological Systems Analysis concentrating in ecology, environmental engineering and systems analysis. He is Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Other Key Science Leadership Promotions

Karen E. Nelson, Ph.D., New Director of Human Microbiology and Metagenomics, JCVI Human Genomic Medicine Group

Dr. Nelson has been a leader in the newly emerging field of human metagenomics having completed the first survey of the human gastrointestinal tract. In her new role, Dr. Nelson will lead a team of scientists to continue their groundbreaking work in cataloguing and understanding the microbes in the human body. She is currently a principal investigator on the large, multi-center grant from the National Institutes of Health's Human Microbiome Project. The goal of this project is to sequence and understand the microbes that live in the human body and their relationship to human health and disease. Dr. Nelson, who has been with the JCVI and its legacy organizations since 1996, has extensive experience in microbial ecology and genomics, as well as in microbial physiology. She led the whole genome sequencing of the Thermotoga maritima MSB8 genome, Pseudomonas putida KT2440 genome, the comparative analyses of Listeria monocytogenes strains, and Campylobacter species, Fibrobacter succinogenes, Ruminococcus albus, Salinibacter ruber and Arthrobacter aurescens. Dr. Nelson received her B.Sc. in Animal Science from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, her M.Sc. in Animal Science from the University of Florida, Gainesville and her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Cornell University.

Samuel Levy, Ph.D., New Director of Human Genomics, JCVI Human Genomic Medicine Group

Dr. Levy was the leading scientist on the first published diploid genome sequence of a human, that of J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., in 2007 (PLoS Biology 5, e254). He and his team will continue to lead studies of functional characterization of DNA variants within the human genome. This team also has plans to sequence the complete diploid genomes of up to 10,000 people over the next 10 years. Dr. Levy has an ongoing interest in characterizing and refining the structure and function of the genome and epigenome in human populations. In addition to his work on the diploid human genome, Dr. Levy also provides contract-based gene resequencing services for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and has worked with over ten different research groups over the last three years providing high throughput discovery of DNA variants on clinical samples for disease association studies.

Prior to joining JCVI in 2002, Dr Levy worked at Celera Genomics and was involved in developing computational tools for gene discovery and functional annotation in the Drosophila and the first human genome sequences. Dr. Levy received a B.Sc. in Molecular Biophysics at the University of Leeds, UK, and his Ph.D. in cell and computational biology at the University of Bristol, UK. He also received a two-year NATO/SERC postdoctoral fellowship studying structural and biochemical changes in plant cell walls at the Ecole Normale Superieure, France.

Yu-Hui Rogers, Vice President of Core Technology Development and Services

A recognized leader in the field of designing and deploying large-scale DNA sequencing projects and pipelines, Rogers has been instrumental in developing and growing the high-throughput DNA sequencing facility at the JCVI. This team has led the sequencing of more than 3,000 viral, 450 prokaryotic, and 50 eukaryotic genomes including the samples from the JCVI's Global Ocean Sampling Expedition, the first complete diploid genome, and many other key genomes for researchers worldwide. In her expanded role, Rogers will continue to oversee the operation of the existing core DNA sequencing facility, and provide overall technical leadership in the areas of new genomics technology development, implementation, management and services. Rogers, who joined the JCVI in 2002, was Scientific Director of the Institute's Joint Technology Center, prior to her promotion.

Before joining the Venter Institute, she was the Manager of Sequencing Research and Development at Celera Genomics. She was instrumental in the development and implementation of Celera's high-throughput sequencing pipeline that allowed the human genome sequence to be completed in 14 months. In addition, she was responsible for implementing and managing a forensic resequencing pipeline at Celera. This pipeline was specifically set up to perform the mtDNA resequencing on the World Trade Center (WTC) victim and reference samples for the purpose of identifying the WTC victims.

Rogers received her B.S. at Chung-Shing University, Taiwan, and her M.S. in chemistry at The American University.

About the J. Craig Venter Institute

The JCVI is a not-for-profit research institute in Rockville, MD and La Jolla, CA dedicated to the advancement of the science of genomics; the understanding of its implications for society; and communication of those results to the scientific community, the public, and policymakers. Founded by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., the JCVI is home to approximately 400 scientists and staff with expertise in human and evolutionary biology, genetics, bioinformatics/informatics, information technology, high-throughput DNA sequencing, genomic and environmental policy research, and public education in science and science policy. The legacy organizations of the JCVI are: The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), The Center for the Advancement of Genomics (TCAG), the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA), the Joint Technology Center (JTC), and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation. The JCVI is a 501 (c)(3) organization. For additional information, please visit

SOURCE J. Craig Venter Institute
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