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Ari Patrinos Leaves Behind Political Masters to Become President of Venter s Synthetic Genomics

NEW YORK, Feb. 3 (GenomeWeb News) - Ari Patrinos will leave his post as associate director of the Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research later this month to become president of Synthetic Genomics, a company  founded last year by Craig Venter.


The appointment is significant for Venter's company because Patrinos, a vocal supporter of the discipline of synthetic genomics, developed and launched the DOE's Genomes to Life Program, a research program dedicated to developing technologies to understand and use microbes for solutions to DOE energy and environmental challenges. Synthetic Genomics focuses on energy and environmental issues, among other things.


Patrinos was also one of the original architects of the US Global Change Research Program, a $2-billion-per-year research effort involving 13 agencies that addresses the causes and effects of global climate change.


Patrinos has been a vocal public supporter of synthetic biology. Last October, he defended the emerging science at the Genomes, Medicine and the Environment Conference in Hilton Head, SC, from what he called his "political masters" in the USgovernment that have been "abusive" in their quest to rename the discipline.


Synthetic Genomics' mission is to create an organism from synthetically crafted and oriented genes. The company is in the process of building a "minimal genome" that can be inserted into the shell of a bacterium - the 517-gene Mycoplasma genitalium -which scientists may eventually genetically engineer to perform specific industrial tasks.


When Synthetic Genomics was founded in June 2005, Juan Enriquez, founding director of HarvardBusinessSchool's Life Sciences Project, was president. According to the company's website, he is now chief business officer. It is not immediately clear why Enriquez was demoted.


Patrinos also played a leading role in the development of the Human Genome Project, and helped create the DOE's Joint Genome Institute in 1997. He received his PhD in mechanical engineering and astronautical sciences from Northwestern Unviersity. A native of Greece, he received his undergraduate degree from the National Technical University of Athens. He begins his new role at Synthetic Genomics Feb. 9.

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