For Geert Wenes, the National Center for Genome Resources is, as Goldilocks would say, just right. NCGR is not intent on an immediate return on investments like many large corporations, but the research is not as open-ended as in the academic world.
Wenes, who has worked at Cray Research and in IBM’s life sciences division as well as in academic research, was recently appointed program leader for bioinformatics at NCGR. He wants to provide customers with “great bioinformatics tools,” and expects that collaborations between NCGR and the Cancer Institute at the University of New Mexico’s Health Science Center will ease the divide between medical biology and computational biology.
“Between those two worlds there’s a great, almost a philosophical or cultural, gap and so we think by working together we can start bridging that,” he says. Specifically, the work will be in data management, data and analytical tools for biochemical networks, and statistical methods for genomics and proteomics analysis.
How will NCGR — known for its revolving-door leadership and the paralyzing noncompete agreement that kept it from developing human genome analysis tools for three years — fare in that place between industry and academics? “We’re a grant and contracts organization, essentially. We are going to have some minimal or modest revenue from licensing and we plan to build on that, but we don’t see that as a dramatically expanding source of revenue,” he says. “We are going to fund our own development and grow our own development, based upon grants and contracts.”
NCGR is also looking to collaborate with national labs, but has not made as much progress there. “We anticipate these collaborations will be centered around pursuing the Department of Energy’s Genomes to Life program,” Wenes says.
— Amanda Urban