After a 9-month national search, Nigel Mouncey, currently Research and Development Director for Bioengineering and Bioprocessing at Dow AgroSciences LLC, has been selected as the Director of the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility.
“Nigel brings the perfect set of scientific and management skills as well as the relevant experience necessary to lead the JGI into its next decade of advancing the frontiers of energy and environmental genomics,” said Jay Keasling, the Associate Laboratory Director for Biosciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), to whom the position will report.
The search committee convened by Keasling and led by Richard M. Myers, President and Science Director of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, carefully evaluated 75 candidates for the Director position.
“The JGI is about enabling its user community to do big science that they could not do in their own laboratories,” Keasling said. “It take teams of scientists, engineers and support staff – in the great 86-year tradition of Berkeley Lab – to create these solutions. I believe that Nigel will be excellent for building and sustaining teams of researchers to solve national-scale challenges and will lead the JGI as a Director who truly values scientific excellence, service to the user community, diversity, inclusion, and safety.”
Born in England, Mouncey received his Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology with honors from the University of Glasgow and a Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry from the University of Sussex. After two postdoctoral research fellowships—at the Harvard Medical School characterizing a bacterial regulatory system, and at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston characterizing genes for novel quinol oxidases and determining regulatory pathways for bacterial respiratory systems expression—he moved on to industry. After stints as a senior research scientist in molecular biology at Roche Vitamins, Inc. in New Jersey and DSM Nutritional Products in Switzerland, he joined Dow AgroSciences in Indianapolis in 2008. There, among his many achievements, Mouncey directed a 70-member R&D team that supported the growth of a highly successful natural product insecticide that has since generated hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue and significant societal benefit through isolating, optimizing, and scaling-up of new production strains for commercial manufacturing by fermentation. He also built an integrated and highly effective bioprocessing team comprising high-throughput screening, metabolic engineering, engineering biology, systems biology, enzymology, protein expression, fermentation and analytical capabilities. His team also developed production strains and fermentation processes for other molecules such as a new fungicide and propionic acid, as well as supporting the discovery of new crop traits.
Mouncey will be the DOE JGI’s fourth Director in its 20-year history. He succeeds Eddy Rubin, who announced his retirement in March 2016 after 14 years as Director, and DOE JGI Science Deputy Axel Visel, who has served as Interim Director since then.
The DOE JGI was founded in 1997 to accelerate the completion of the DOE commitment to the Human Genome Project (HGP). In 2003, the DOE JGI published the analysis of chromosomes 5, 16, and 19 in the journal Nature. The next year, the DOE JGI launched what has become the Community Science Program (CSP), the primary mechanism through which the Institute provides resources as a National User Facility to its worldwide community of scientific users. Today, the DOE JGI is the only federally-funded, high-throughput genome sequencing and analysis facility focused solely on the genomes of non-medical microbes, microbial communities, plants and fungi relevant to DOE missions in energy and the environment. The DOE JGI serves over 1,300 unique users and supports a staff of nearly 300 on $70 million in operating expenses. A video depicting how the DOE JGI fits into the national research infrastructure can be viewed here.
It is expected that Mouncey will be onboard by March 15, in time for the DOE JGI’s 12th Annual Genomics of Energy & Environment User Meeting, March 20-23, 2017.
Berkeley Lab will break ground on January 31, 2017 for the Integrative Genomics Building, which will serve as the new home for the DOE JGI and the DOE Systems Knowledgebase (KBase) when completed in 2019.