Recorded: 03 Mar 2006
Well, I was one of the people in the early days; I became the director of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in ’93. And I met Craig Venter shortly afterwards. He was still at NIH if I remember correctly. It was around that time. My dates may not have been—and I liked his ideas about the ESTs, for example, the express sequence tags which had made a huge difference. [starts again]
I do remember meeting him at NIH and, you know, in a sense sometimes you just click with certain individuals, and I clicked with Craig. What he was saying made a lot of sense. So when he moved to TIGR and proposed sequencing using the shotgun method of microbial genomes, I thought that was wonderful! Frankly even though the focus was on the human genome, I had a lot of interest, as I said, from childhood in other life forms, you know. I was not as anthropocentric as most people in that respect. So the sequencing of Haemophilus influenzae was just incredible to me. We were involved in the funding of the second genome, which was Mycoplasma genitalium, an organism that figures prominently in our plans in many ways. That started a very, very I would say successful collaboration with Craig Venter in almost everything he did since that time. Even including when he challenged us by creating Celera and racing us for the human genome sequence, because I remained friends with him during that time.
In fact, even though my colleagues in the public program weren’t necessarily very happy to hear me say it, I was always very upfront by my conviction that having competition is wonderful. If you are the only game in town then you go at your own slow pace and, you know, you’ve got nothing to prompt you to do things better. I think history speaks for itself. The fact that we did have that competition made a huge difference both in terms of how hard we worked, how closely we worked. You know, we put aside a lot of differences because it was one of those cases of, you know, stick together or hang separately. So even in the time of competition, you know, I stayed in touch with Craig. Without breaking any confidences, which he never asked me to do anyway in terms of providing any secrets of the public program, we stayed in touch and we kept each other informed of what was happening without letting on any secrets. And provided a back channel that I think ultimately was very helpful.
Ari Patrinos, currently is a president of Synthetic Genomics, Inc. He is best known for his leading roles in the development of the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the U.S. Human Genome Project. He earned his undergraduate degree from the National Technical University of Athens and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and astronautical sciences from Northwestern University.
Patrinos has worked in Department of Energy (DOE) Laboratory system since 1973. His research area includes biomedical engineering, atmospheric turbulence, environmental chemistry, climate change, and statistical methods. In 1995 he became the Associate Director for Biological and Environmental Research in the DOE Office of Science and was responsible for human and microbial genome programs, structural biology, nuclear medicine and health effects, global environmental change. He helped create the DOE's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in 1997 and developed the DOE's Genomes to Life Program.
He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Geophysical Union, and a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.