Jun Wang has left his post as head of BGI, Nature News reports. It adds that Wang plans to pursue research into artificial intelligence.
Wang has been with the organization since it opened in 1999 as the Beijing Genomics Institute and moved with it in 2007 to Shenzen. Under his watch, Nature News says BGI evolved "from a plucky sequencing outfit to a research powerhouse." According to Nature News, a statement from the organization credited Wang for his role in a number of its scientific accomplishments, including sequencing the first genome of an Asian person, the giant panda genome, and the human gut microbiome.
"He's had a huge role, really. I think it's been his drive and enthusiasm that's been the reason why there are so many large-scale genomic projects around," says the Natural History Museum of Denmark's Tom Gilbert, who has worked with BGI and Wang.
Duke University's Erich Jarvis recalls meeting with Wang and other collaborators to talk about sequencing bird genomes, and Wang suggested sequencing every bird species, not realizing there were more than 10,000 of them.
"After a half-hour of talking he said, 'Let's just do it. Let's do all 10,000. That's going to be a game changer'," recalls Jarvis tells Nature News. "That's really his spirit. If it's something big — something difficult — then his answer is, 'Let's do it'."
Wang will remain affiliated with BGI, Nature News reports, and collaborators say they expect him to retain some influence there.