Bart Weimer, a professor in the Department of Population Health and Reproduction in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Hao Zhang, chief operating officer of BGI Americas, have been appointed co-directors of BGI@UCDavis, a partnership between UC Davis and BGI (Beijing Genomics Institute), the world's largest genome sequencing organization.
Weimer and Zhang will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the center, to be located on UC Davis' Sacramento campus.
"Professor Weimer brings a wide range of experience both in genomic science and industry partnerships to this role. This exciting joint venture will benefit greatly from his leadership," says Harris Lewin, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis.
The center will be managed by a steering committee, of which Weimer and Zhang will be members, and a governance committee. The two committees will include both UC Davis and BGI personnel, consistent with the closely collaborative nature of this partnership.
The co-directors will also act as liaisons to their respective institutions to develop projects and look for opportunities to bring BGI's capabilities to bear on scientific problems and challenges in areas including human and animal health, agriculture and the environment.
Weimer joined the faculty at UC Davis in 2008 from Utah State University, where he was director of the Center for Integrated BioSystems, which provided core biotechnology services to the campus and conducted genomic science research. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona and his Ph.D. from Utah State, and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He has worked in both academia and the private sector, including three startup companies based on technology developed in his lab.
In his research, Weimer uses functional genomic techniques to study microbial systems biology, especially of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
Zhang was born and educated in China. After he received his bachelor's degree from Peking University, he moved to the U.S., where he earned his Ph.D. degree from The Ohio State University in 2007. He joined Cambridge, Mass.-based BGI Americas in 2010 as an application biologist before becoming the organization's chief operating officer. As co-director of BGI, he will be based in Sacramento.
Through BGI, campus researchers will have access to the capabilities and expertise of one of the world's premier genomics and bioinformatics institutes, while BGI researchers will have the ability to collaborate with UC Davis researchers, thereby benefiting from the university's diverse resources and expertise, especially in biology, medical sciences, agriculture, the environment and education.
An interim facility with three DNA sequencing machines began operations in renovated space on the Sacramento campus at the end of 2011. The eventual facility, once completed, will house up to 20 such machines. Renovation and construction of the new facility should be complete by the end of 2012.