Ari Patrinos on Two Personalities of the HGP: Francis Collins and Craig Venter
  Ari Patrinos     Biography    
Recorded: 03 Mar 2006

Well, Francis is sort of the very, very, very straight; very dedicated, very committed, and very collegial. Very much dependent on his colleagues and very sensitive to make sure he doesn’t violate confidences or doesn’t in some sense disappoint the constituency that he represents.

Craig on the other hand is, you know, he is the idea person. He is brilliant. He is not afraid to disappoint people, to go his own way when he thinks he’s right. But also at the same time a lot more caring and a lot more compassionate than a lot of people give him credit. It’s just that sometimes it doesn’t come across that way because of, you know, the brilliance and because of the strength of the personality.

We all have negative parts in a sense. We all have negative parts. You know, I don’t know what would say about—Francis maybe sometimes, you know, I don’t know whether being overly considerate or overly sensitive about the need to be a consensus builder. That could be the case. There are circumstances where you need to disappoint some people as opposed to try to find the least common denominator, which is sometimes what Francis tried to do. He always wanted to find some way that nobody would be disappointed. And in many respects some of the decisions that were made in the program may not have been the best scientifically because we wanted to essentially satisfy everybody. We didn’t want to have too many people that were disappointed. If there would be a weakness or a negative side, this is what I would attribute to Francis. But it’s a small part.

Craig is, you know, is in some way he is bull in a china shop behavior at times. And I’ve told him to his face that many times he behaves just like an adolescent. I think he sometimes is proud of it, that he does act that way. He hasn’t grown up in many respects. Thank heavens for that. We need some people that never grow up like that because part of that – it’s the personality, it’s the combination of traits that we have that gives us what we are.

I will give you one little anecdote that’s important. In this town, in Washington, I’ve been blessed by having a wonderful mentor who is passed away now. He was Elliot Richardson, President Nixon’s secretary of everything. One of the sharpest and best minds that have come through this town. He always used to tell me something that has become almost dogma for me. We have the defects of our qualities. And sometimes, you know, the very things that we would like to fix in ourselves, if we were successful in fixing we would in the process lose the good qualities that we have. He used to talk about President Nixon that way. He had a lot of interactions with President Nixon. After all President Nixon fired him, you know, after the Watergate ______. He used to say that if I was to reach into Nixon’s brains and adjust those things that made him do all these terrible things such as the Watergate thing, what would have happened, you know I would have also made changes that would have kept him from going to China and opening up the relations with China or what he did with respect to starting the Environmental Protection Agency, a little known fact that Richard Nixon was a very dedicated environmentalist. So even Elliot Richardson, you know, remembered. He used to use that as an example for somebody who in fact hurt and had fired him. You know, he recognized that we all have the defects of our qualities and I think the same thing could be said about both Francis and Craig.

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.