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Francis Collins, Alan Guttmacher, Judy Lewent, Christine Jacobs-Wagner, Thomas Walz

Francis Collins announced this week he will step down as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute on Aug. 1 to focus on “writing projects and other professional opportunities.”
Collins has been director of NHGRI since April 1993 and led the Human Genome Project to its completion in 2003. He also guided a number of follow-up initiatives, such as the International HapMap Project, the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, the Knockout Mouse Project, the Mammalian Gene Collection, the Cancer Genome Atlas, the Molecular Libraries Initiative, and the Human Microbiome Project. Collins also founded an intramural program in genomics within the National Institutes of Health in 1993.
“My decision was driven by a desire for an interval of time dedicated to writing, reflection, and exploration of other professional opportunities in the public or private sectors,” Collins said in a statement. “The demands and responsibilities of directing an NIH institute do not allow the time commitment necessary for this. In addition, I may need greater latitude than my current position allows to pursue other potential positions of service without encountering any possible conflicts of interest, whether real or perceived.”
Alan Guttmacher, deputy director of NHGRI, will be appointed acting director of the institute on Aug. 1. NIH said that it will soon begin a formal search process for a permanent NHGRI director.

Thermo Fisher Scientific this week said that Judy Lewent has been named to its board. She was also appointed to the board’s strategy review committee. The company now has 10 directors.
Lewent was formerly executive vice president and CFO of Merck, where she worked from 1980 to 2007. She also served as president, Human Health Asia at the drug firm. She currently serves on the boards of Dell and Motorola. Lewent is a lifetime member of the MIT Corp. and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Christine Jacobs-Wagner and Thomas Walz were named Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators last week.
Jacobs-Wagner is a Yale University associate professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology. Jacobs-Wagner is an expert in the internal cellular workings of bacteria. Her work on Caulobacter crescentus has allowed her and her team to investigate the role of proteins at particular locations and times within the life-cycle of cells, Yale said in a statement. She also has found that some bacteria host proteins known as intermediate filaments, once thought to exist only in animal cells. By knocking out intermediate filaments, the shape of the bacteria can be changed.

Walz is a professor of biology at Harvard Medical School and has been using electron microscopy to study membrane proteins. Most recently he has been researching protein-lipid interactions, and has been using aquaporin-0 as a model to study how lipids with different chemistry and shapes interact with membrane proteins.

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.