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So Long, Celera: Adams Joins Case Western Med School

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He’s not the first high-profile genomic scientist to leave Celera Genomics, but he may be the first to credit his departure, at least in part, to a midlife crisis. At 40, Mark Adams is packing up after 13 years in Maryland and heading for the flat terrain of Cleveland, Ohio, where he’ll be an associate professor in the department of genetics at Case Western Reserve University’s medical school.

Adams kicked off his career as a postdoc in Craig Venter’s NIH lab in 1990. “I started TIGR with him and then came and started Celera with him,” he says. So it’s understandable that he has “really mixed feelings” about leaving. “It’s been a tremendously fun experience.”

But, like Gene Myers and others before him, Adams decided it was time to try a new path. One particular lure for the public sector, he says, is that “the technologies that enabled the genome to be sequenced are now very accessible to academic labs.”

“In the last few months what I was really interested in was to be able to follow up on the tremendously interesting stories that have come across my desk,” he says. At Case Western, in addition to some teaching responsibilities, he’ll be able to set up a lab in pursuit of those gems, including “using mouse genetics to look at complex disease” primarily by studying mutagenesis and QTL analysis in mice. It’s an area Adams calls “ripe” for genomics applications.

Case Western itself is ripe for genomics, home to such names as gene-duplication guru Evan Eichler and Hunt Willard, known for studies of genetic structure and function. “The entire administration there has turned over in the last year or so,” Adams says. “They’re very pro-genomics, there’s a lot of excitement there.” He’ll be working with Joe Nadeau, chairman of the genetics department.

Adams will continue with Celera as a consultant for “projects that are winding down or still getting started.” He looks back with fondness on the publication of the Drosophila genome as a proud moment for his Celera crew. “It meant that the sequencers worked and the assembly worked and the annotation worked,” he says. “It meant that we were going to be able to do the human genome.”

— Meredith Salisbury