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After Gene Logic, Markowitz Is Pinned by JGI as CIO


It seems that wherever Victor Markowitz decides to go, the CIO title is sure to follow.

Joining Gene Logic in 1997 after 10 years at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the Israeli-born computer scientist led the development of the company’s Genesis data management software, and soon rose to CIO. In recent months, as Gene Logic’s business strategy evolved toward providing clinical trials services, he returned to Lawrence Berkeley to lead an academic group. Now, he finds himself with an additional position at the DOE’s Joint Genome Institute. Guess what: he’s CIO.

There’s a reason JGI is giving Markowitz a corporate title. When he rejoined the national lab in February, Markowitz created the Biological Data Management and Technology Center, with a mission to apply industry practices for designing and supporting data management software in an academic environment. With its sequencers churning out more and more genomic data, JGI was a natural first client. Sure enough, JGI Director Eddy Rubin solicited advice from Markowitz’s group on how to better handle that data, and then, says Markowitz, he asked him to implement those recommendations as CIO.

Typically, an academic group’s approach to software development is more “attuned to rapid prototyping of systems” than establishing an organized approach, Markowitz says. As the scale and complexity of data management within that group grows, he adds, it’s useful to apply practices common to industry, such as introducing traditional life cycles of software and system development, and creating an infrastructure for software support. “There is nothing deep or revolutionary about it.” he says. “It’s basically taking principles that have been used in industry for many years, and applying them in this setting.”

In fact, as JGI continues to expand its capacity for sequencing the genomes of microbes and other organisms, solving its data management needs demands nothing less than an industrial-scale approach. “More and more it’s looking like a company — without the profit — and you need the basic organization to deal with it,” Markowitz says. “The problem is of scale and growth.”

— John S. MacNeil


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