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Nature named BGI Executive Director Jun Wang “People Who Mattered This Year”
Publish Date: 2012-12-21

December 20,2012, Nature announced Ten People Who Mattered This Year.Thirty-six-year- old BGI Executive Director Jun Wang is on the list and also the only Chinese. BGI has gained the global recognition on its influence in basic research. In 2012, BGI has made great efforts in translating genomics science into real-world applications.

The Ten People on the list are Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Adam Steltzner, Cédric Blanpain, Elizabeth Iorns, Jun Wang, Jo Handelsman, Tim Gowers, Bernardo De Bernardinis, and Ron Fouchier.

Nature published a featured story to introduce Jun Wang, stating that as a leader of  a Chinese sequencing powerhouse (BGI), Wang shows their ambition in genomics research.

Link of the Original story on Nature

Nature's 10

Ten people who mattered this year.
19 December 2012
Jun Wang: Genome juggernaut

The head of a Chinese sequencing powerhouse reveals the scale of the institute’s genome ambitions.
By David Cyranoski

“We are the muscle — we have no brain,” said Jun Wang in 2009, describing BGI, the Chinese genome-sequencing institute he leads. It was the kind of cheeky statement for which Wang has become known, but there seemed some truth to the claim. BGI had just purchased 128 top-of-the-line DNA-sequencing machines and was putting hundreds of young programmers — often plucked directly from universities — to work on an onslaught of data. It was a sequencing centre on steroids, using its unparalleled technical power to tackle almost every project going. Today, BGI is the biggest genome-sequencing operation in the world, and Wang, a 34-year-old bioinformatician who has been with it from the start, is well on his way to demolishing the organization’s brawn-without-brains reputation.

BGI was established in 1999 to support the Human Genome Project. It went from accounting for about 1% of the genomics community’s sequencing capacity at that time, to “more like 50%” today, says George Church, a geneticist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With eight overseas offices and 600 representatives around the globe, BGI works with more than 10,000 collaborators from universities, pharmaceutical and agricultural companies and other research institutions. Although it calls itself a non-profit organization, BGI has courted investors and made moves to acquire other companies in the sequencing field. The rapid growth has been stressful at times. Wang remembers chucking a computer out of the window during the race to sequence the rice genome a decade ago because his team didn’t know enough computer programming for the task at hand. “I had a bad temper. But that’s history,” Wang says. “I’m very nice and gentle now.”

As a public face for the institute, Wang uses his energy and self-effacing humour to highlight BGI’s ambitions, which seem to include sequencing the genome of just about every organism on the planet. It is taking a leading role in sequencing 10,000 vertebrates through the Genome 10K project; 5,000 insects and other arthropods through the i5k initiative; and more than 1,000 birds, including some extinct ones in a separate project.

This year, BGI was listed in more than 100 publications. It was a main player in the 1,000 Genomes Project Consortium, which aims to tease out genetic factors in disease by comparing human genomes from geographically distinct regions. And it has increasingly been initiating its own projects, including two studies that analyse the genomes of single cells to chart cancer development (Y. Hou et al. Cell 148, 873–885; 2012 and X. Xu et al. Cell 148, 886–895; 2012).

But the largest change in 2012 was BGI’s progress in translating genomic science into real-world applications. A partnership with the Gates Foundation signed in September will expand the repertoire of sequenced agricultural organisms and infectious diseases. The institute is also working on genetic tests that detect fetal chromosome abnormalities from a mother’s blood, and it is pushing to use next-generation sequencing for diagnostic tests in newborns.

In an attempt to secure a dominant position in clinical testing, BGI offered US$118 million in September to acquire sequencing-technology company Complete Genomics of Mountain View, California. Church, who serves as an adviser to both companies, says that Complete Genomics has technologies that will be invaluable in screening for disease-related genes.

Wang says now that he never really doubted that BGI was more than just brawn. “I was just being modest,” he says when reminded of his comments from three years ago (see Nature 464, 22–24; 2010). “If you really don’t have a brain, you can’t move the muscles.”