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JGI Adds CIO Position to BDMTC Responsibilities for Victor Markowitz

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Joint Genome Institute has given additional responsibilities as chief informatics officer and associate director to Victor Markowitz, the head of the Biological Data Management and Technology Center at partner institution Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

In the newly-created position, Markowitz will be a member of JGI's senior management team, with responsibilities that include advising JGI Director Eddy Rubin on issues concerning JGI's technology infrastructure, how it can best be used, and what new equipment will be needed in the future.

Markowitz will keep his position at BDMTC in addition to his new duties, which took effect on Monday. BDMTC partners with JGI scientists in the development of microbial genome and metagenome data management and analysis systems

JGI spokesman David Gilbert told GenomeWeb Daily News the torrent of data generated by next-generation sequencing compelled the institute to seek a full-time in-house executive for vision and strategic leadership designed to maintain top-tier capabilities in information technology and informatics.

Till now, Gilbert said, JGI has sought out a mix of in-house staffers, professionals from partner laboratories that carry out genome sequencing, and advisors serving on JGI's Scientific Advisory Board.

"With the tremendous flux of sequencing data generated now by these new instruments, there's a strong emphasis for JGI to play a real leadership role in the data management and data analysis space. [Markowitz's] role is really crafted to enable JGI to be out on that leading edge," Gilbert said on Tuesday.

"There are a number of parallel processes we're developing right now" as part of a larger, integrated system of tracking genomes being sequenced, Gilbert said, adding, Markowitz's "role in helping guide a number of these areas is going to be valuable."

Markowitz's responsibilities include the recently-completed consolidation of JGI's high-performance scientific computing operations into the US Department of Energy's National Energy Research Scientific Computer Center, or NERSC.

Markowitz will also examine whether JGI will need to hire new staff to manage the data explosion.

JGI is facing the prospect of a less than 1 percent increase in its budget for the federal fiscal year starting Oct. 1 — to $69.3 million from $69 million in FY 2010. Flat spending is not expected to hobble Markowitz's effort, Gilbert said, because the institute has accrued savings from having the position funded before Markowitz's appointment as part of the current budget.

The institute advertised for the position through ads in Nature and Science, then interviewed candidates "for the better part of six months" before naming Markowitz to the position, Gilbert said.

JGI coordinates the genomic capabilities of six partner institutions — including LBNL, which Markowitz rejoined in 2004 in order to establish and lead BDMTC. Previously, he served as chief information officer and senior vice president, data management systems, at Gene Logic.

Before joining Gene Logic in 1997, Markowitz spent 10 years as a staff scientist during his first stint at Berkeley Lab. There, he led the development of the Object Protocol Model data management and integration tools which were used for developing public and commercial genome databases. Markowitz received his MSc and DSc degrees in computer science from Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology.