Since his arrival in 2017, Nigel has led a vision for the JGI that sees secondary metabolism analysis and research as a driver for novel technologies that can serve all JGI users. Nigel has a long scientific background in pathway and gene regulation, and a distinguished career in industry developing natural products for commercial use.
Read about JGI’s goals for secondary metabolism by downloading a copy of our 5-Year Strategic Plan, “Beyond Basepairs – A Vision for Integrative and Collaborative Genome Science,” here. Additional show notes are here.
DAN: Hello, everyone, and Welcome back for Episode 14 of Natural Prodcast. There’s been a lot going on, so I took a little break, but I’m hoping that from here I can get back to a regular schedule. I’m going to kick things off today with my interview with the Director of the Joint Genome Institute and head of the Secondary Metabolites Science Program at JGI, and also my boss, Nigel Mouncey. I got him on to talk about JGI’s vision for secondary metabolism, his past in industry in developing natural products for agriculture, and his upcoming new role as the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology’s (SIMB) new President-elect.
I also want to take a minute to mention that the JGI’s Annual User Meeting is coming up, August 30th through September 1st. Three days of great science, and all online and free. [Register here.] We had to cancel last year’s event due to COVID, but this year we’re holding the meeting virtually, and registration is totally free. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about JGI, hear some excellent talk from our users and from other invited guests, and we’ll also have these “online lounges” where you can come in and talk to me or other JGI staff about secondary metabolism or anything you like. It should be really fun and interesting, so I hope you’ll check it out. You can get more info at usermeeting.jgi.doe.gov. And I’ll be sure I put that link in the show notes, which you can always find through the JGI website at naturalprodcast.com. Finally, I’ll just mention here that for this interview Alison was not available, but no worries, she’ll back next time! We’ve already got lots of great talks recorded and on the way – I’m going to try to keep them coming out every two weeks for a while – so I hope you’ll be listening. But this week, here’s my chat with my boss, JGI Director Nigel Mouncey.
DAN: I’ll start by saying this is the first in-person recording that I’ve done since that first batch of episodes that I did at the SIMB meeting … two years ago? Yeah, it would be two years ago.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: It’s two years ago now.
DAN: Yeah. So thanks! [CHUCKLE] Thanks– [LAUGHTER] –for agreeing to meet with me in a room.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Oh, yeah, it’s exciting to finally be back in a room with you, Dan. And to be actually sitting across the table from you.
DAN: Absolutely. It’s been a while. Talking with me today is my boss. So I need to be on my best behavior. My boss is Nigel Mouncey, and he’s the director of the Joint Genome Institute. And so anybody who’s listened to other episodes has heard me talk about JGI and what we do. And Nigel is, like I said, not only the director of JGI, but he’s also my boss and the head of the Secondary Metabolites Science Program, is that what we officially are?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: I think that’s what we are now, Yeah.
DAN: I think it’s always fun to talk about what you want to do with natural products because well, it affects my job. But also I think JGI has got a lot of directions that we could go and ways that we could help and we’re trying to figure all that out now. And so having you, you’ll be able to articulate that to people maybe even better than I can.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah, absolutely. No, happy to share my thoughts.
DAN: Good. But first, I usually like to get backgrounds on people. And so you’re obviously not from around here?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: No, I’m not. I grew up in the South of England, in rural England. I kind of always wanted to be a microbiologist. My dad was a microbiologist.
DAN: Oh, is that right? I didn’t know that.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: And so biology and microbiology just followed me all the way through my high school days in England.
DAN: What did your dad do in microbiology?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: He used to work for Glaxo before they merged with Beecham and SmithKline and became a much bigger company. But, yeah, he was mucking around with Bacillus spores for a long time for food spoilage kind of testing, applications. And that’s funny because I – later on I worked with Bacillus for quite a while.
DAN: That’s cool that your dad inspired you because my kids have no interest as far as I can tell. They see me every once in a while grow some plates in– [LAUGHTER] –store them in the fridge, especially when I’m doing brewing. But that’s really cool.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah, dad never forced it on me, but we always had these scientific news magazines lying around at home. And I would just pick them up and look at the pictures for a while. And then I was able to read bits of them and just kind of really piqued my interest in science.
DAN: Excellent, Yeah. OK, cool. So then what specifically about natural products? What got you in that direction?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah, so as I said, I did my undergraduate in microbiology and then PhD in microbial genetics in the UK. And came across to the US for a couple of postdocs. One at Harvard Med School and the other at University of Texas. And these were not in natural products, these were in studying regulatory mechanisms of, first, E. coli and then Rhodobacter spheroides. And that got me really interested in microbial gene regulation and some pathways. And I thought I’d take an academic job then, but I ended up going into industry. Saw a job at Roche, and that was to work with Bacillus to help them engineer organisms to produce more riboflavin. We already had a fermentation process with already engineered strains, but this was to further build on those to try and increase titer and rate and drive down the cost of producing riboflavin at scale.
DAN: Got it.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: And I did that for about six years. During that time, we got acquired by DSM. And a little after that acquisition, I moved to another project. This time on vitamin C with a Gluconibacter.
And that got me back a little bit to redox enzymes and looking at gene regulation. And then from there, I went to Dow Agrosciences, which is where I really entered the world of natural products and secondary metabolites.
DAN: Right. How much of that can you tell us about?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: I can tell a bit. So bear with me here. There’s quite a bit I can say.
DAN: Sure, sure.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: So we had two major natural products projects that we had in my group which was bioengineering bio-process R&D, BBRD, a group of about 75 people. So our biggest project was the spinosyn family of insecticides that Dow had already commercialized into two main products. One is Spinosad. Its a natural fermentation product of Saccharopolispora spinoza. And the other is spinetoram which is a semi-synthetic derivative of an intermediate in the spinosyn pathway. And so both of these are fermentation products, and so my team, we were responsible for coming up with new strains and new process improvements and new ways to recover spinosyns. And so we had a high throughput screening platform where we’d look at 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 mutants a week. We started doing a whole bunch of strain engineering efforts. We did a lot of fermentation. We had a really beautiful fermentation development lab and research lab all the way from Ambr250 fermenters to 2 liter Dasket fermenters to 30 liter Sartorius stainless steel steam-in-place reactors. And worked very closely with them in manufacturing to get things into piloting and to finally get things into commercial production. So the full stretch of things. Full stretch all the way from a well into microtiter plate all the way up to supporting 200,000-liter fermenters.
DAN: Was that discovered there or did it start–
NIGEL MOUNCEY: The spinosyns were discovered originally by Eli Lilly, which then merged, part of that company merged with Dow to form Dow Agrosciences. And so it was very much a co-Dow product.
DAN: Industrial discovery, yeah.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Right. An amazing product, really, in a way. Different formulations. But the breadth of crops, the breadth of countries that we were selling products into, the sort of extended range of applications into companion animal health for example. There’s some mollusk treatments as well that people were looking at. And even a patent came out on treatment for cognitive disorders in humans, which–
DAN: I think I do remember that. I think I came across that. So, I did a very little bit of looking at spinosyns trying to find related clusters at Warp Drive, which I can say we didn’t. So–
NIGEL MOUNCEY: That’s the–
DAN: I’m sure they’re out there, but we didn’t have them in our library, at the time. Not in an obvious way.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: We did a little bit of metagenome screening work and did find related clusters. But it is remarkable that it hasn’t shown up very frequently in people’s screenings. And the original isolate was found on an old rum still, which– you’ve got this very sugary environment. It’s a compound that clearly kills things that would otherwise consume substrates for Saccharopolyspora to grow on.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: But, Yeah, it’s really fascinating to sort of be able to work in this cross between R&D and business. And I had a foot in both camps to be able to really understand the business needs and business growth and be able to translate that into our R&D strategy and plans for the work that we were doing. And then to really see what happens when you scale strains and you scale process conditions. And we worked really hard to make sure our 30 liter processes were very representative of manufacturing.
DAN: We haven’t really ever talked about – too much about development and all of the work that goes into it.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: I think a good development story is really around our second big natural product which, at least at the time, was called Inatreq. It’s a fungicide that is active against Sartoria which is a really big pathogen of wheat in cereal crops in Europe. And the molecule is derived from a natural product called UK2A that was discovered in Japan. And this was one where we partnered with a company in Japan, Meiji Seika Pharma, transferred the technology that they developed over to Dow Agrosciences in Indianapolis in the US. And it’s not easy to transfer technology any time, trying to do this across geographical and cultural and language borders, barriers, is even more difficult.
DAN: I can only imagine that.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: But we were able to get obviously materials and process descriptions that allowed us to at least firstly set up a baseline process. And then really dig deeper into both aspects of the strain, as well as the fermentation process itself. And we built a nice modeling feedback loop for the fermentation work, which really allowed us to make a lot of improvements pretty quickly to be honest which is really exciting to see. We also then build up obviously all the strain capabilities. And it’s pretty funny. Actually it was probably the last time I really worked in the lab. It was on the very early work of cultivating this guy and figuring out how to cultivate it in our labs. But we got it going and we got a screening platform set up. And we got the genetic engineering set up. And we were kind of off to the races then with that project.
And I think this is where, if you’ve worked on one product – so, when we’ve done a lot on our spinosyns. We had a huge amount of learnings to apply to this second product, the UK2A base product. And it really helped us, I think, accelerate the progress. And we were several years ahead of plan with hitting our targets which was terrific. We ended up working with a contract manufacturer to actually have them build a plant for production and fermentation and transfer that technology over. And we worked with them to get it up and running and it was very successful.
DAN: Is that just knowing where the pitfalls are?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: I think it’s taking a bit of risk actually.
DAN: Oh, yeah.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Taking a bit of risk and then actually really adapting from there to dial in conditions and things. I think it was a learning for us that you don’t always have to follow the very defined paths and check everything over 20 times. You can actually take some risk, measured risk. You certainly don’t want to have to take risks that would lead to things like leakage of organism, plant, product, et cetera. But yeah, I think it allowed us to really accelerate the progress. And that’s great because that helps with getting products launched. But if you can actually take it far enough, you can start to think about other applications of the product that now open up because you’ve been able to create more product or you’ve been able to lower the costs.
DAN: Do you have any – or the ability to say, like, what the amount of time and development cost that was? I’m just curious because you talk about the billion dollar drugs that you have to do for medicine and I don’t know how Ag[riculture] exactly compares to that.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Our calculations told us that for either bringing a crop protection chemical to market or a new plant right to market takes about 10 years. Costs are in the range of $100 to $120 million to do that.
DAN: OK. So about the same amount of time, but maybe a tenth of the cost. That’s amazing.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah. And the ag industry is highly regulated and that drives a lot of the timeline.
DAN: Yeah, you’ve never done anything in medicine, right?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: I have not done anything in medicine.
DAN: And JGI’s a whole other different animal, isn’t it?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Exactly. Did work a little bit with a product for cosmetics for a while and we talked to some cosmetics people. And unfortunately that was a product– it wasn’t a natural product as we think about them in the natural products community, but it was again another product, an organism made that was then further transformed.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: And we weren’t very successful unfortunately, which was disappointing. But again, it was–
NIGEL MOUNCEY: –complex chemistry and the molecules of surfactant. And that’s very hard to try to scale. At least at that time there are now I think more processes that have been described that seemed to work for other types of surfactants. I’m very proud of all the work we did. Unfortunately, it’s not really going to see the light of day.
DAN: That’s a lot of natural products work, right? Think about how many things that are potential drug molecules that have micromolar activities. They get reported in the literature and just never went anywhere. That’s par for the course, right?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Right. But for us, intellectual property was absolutely key.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Both of these products are really valuable products for the company and for the business. And we went to a lot of lengths to protect the technology.
DAN: Yeah, OK. What do you mean by that?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: We fought a lot of patents, we have a lot of trade secrets.
DAN: So then, what brought you here to JGI?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yes, I’d got to this point in my career where I was spending probably a bit more time with the business teams and really discussing business strategies than doing anything really related to R&D. And so I knew I was at this crossroads in my career, to think a bit about what is next. Do I want to continue down that business route or do I really want to get back to the R&D? And at the same time Dow and DuPont went and decided to merge and started this merger process. And that was pretty stressful.
And we didn’t know, really, what path that would take. There were a number of different routes in that could have gone. And even the way it has now, there’s been a lot of change in the new company called Corteva, bringing these two businesses together. And so I’d reached this time when I thought, well, it’s probably time to start looking for another job. And after a bit of soul searching, decided, yeah, it’s really got to be back in the R&D space. And having worked for the best part of 20 years on products that were largely in commercialization, I thought it’d be great to have a job that really got me back to more fundamental biological discovery. And I virtually just kind of stumbled on the JGI director job. [CHUCKLE]
One day when I was looking at emails and I just saw this pop up. And saw a C&E News job little box and I thought, wow, this would be fantastic. What a fantastic opportunity? And so whipped my application in, I think, the same day. And that started an interview process that was really enjoyable. Took quite a while. But it gave me an opportunity really to learn about JGI, learn about the national lab system, doing some research then. Of course, I never worked with national labs.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: I was of course, aware of them, but never had the opportunity to do any work with them. And lo and behold, here I am.
DAN: What do you see as differences in your leadership positions in industry versus here? There’s some big difference just in terms of what we do, but I don’t know. How is it different?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: This is a big team. It’s a bigger team than I led in an industry. I think the biggest difference is we’re all about collaboration here. We’re all about open science. And this is the total opposite
[LAUGHTER] –of [industry]. And I think that really excites me. This is one of the reasons I’m still thrilled to have this position, is the ability now to just go and collaborate with basically who we want to really. In a way, who interests us and who’s interested in us?
DAN: Yeah, that’s a really good insight. And I really thought about that, but that totally makes sense. That’s a big part of what I enjoy about being here too. When I worked in academia, that was just a struggle. [LAUGHTER] A struggle all around with everything. Then working in industry was– I was in a startup. So it was a different situation. We were not developing anything. [LAUGHTER] We were just trying to keep our head above water and find cool things. So it was a very research focused job, for sure. So sliding from there to here made sense for me. And it’s basically doing similar things to what I was doing there, maybe on a different scale even. So that’s a good point, OK.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah, and I think one of the other big things for me has been working in the Department of Energy. I really wasn’t known to them and they weren’t known to me.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: And we had to get to know each other. And our program managers – we’ve had two of them in my time here at JGI. And I couldn’t ask for them to be more supportive. It’s been really wonderful to not only have them manage us, but really be partners with us. And really embrace our vision and support that. And for us to support DOE’s vision as well.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: So it’s very much a partnership. And that’s how I look at it and it’s been terrific to really have these great relationships with the Department of Energy.
DAN: How would you articulate your vision for JGI broadly? We’ll talk about secondary metabolism. [CHUCKLE] I do want to do that! But what do you– I don’t know, is there an elevator pitch for that or–
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Oh, sure. I think our legacy obviously is in sequencing.
DAN: Of course.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Sequencing the wazoo out of anything that’s relevant to the Department of Energy and their mission. And for a long time, I think, we’ve just been cataloging who’s there in these different environments. And now it’s really about what are they doing. And so it’s really functional genomics. And there’s a lot of sequencing based approaches, of course, now that we can use to figure that out.
But what excites me and what my vision is bringing in these other capabilities, like synthetic biology, like metabolomics, like some of the more directed genomics approaches, DAPseq and the stabilized isotope probing work that we’re doing, single cell work we’re doing. And using these together along with all of our computational tools to really build out much more of an integrative genomics approach to studying environments, studying organisms, to looking at pathways, and to looking at the interactions of organisms and environments.
DAN: Where do you see secondary metabolism falling into that?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Secondary metabolism fits everywhere!
DAN: I think it does.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: It really does. These molecules are playing important roles in the environment. These organisms wouldn’t have these capabilities to produce these very complex molecules that are incredibly draining on energy and metabolism for these organisms. And most of the ones that we’re interested in, of course, streptomyces, for example, don’t just produce one, they produce a whole plethora of these molecules. And so getting to understand what are these things doing in the environment and how we might be able to take advantage of those to improve plant health, for example.
DAN: Right. So then secondary metabolism is a driver for our technology?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Oh, yeah, I think it hits in all parts of our technologies. Nowadays people are really looking at these assembly line pathways – polyketides – as ways to produce platform chemicals, commodity chemicals. And that’s not necessarily been a focus of our work so much, but obviously colleagues around us, especially Jay Keasling are incredibly interested in this and have made tremendous advances in understanding how to harness the power of second metabolite biosynthesis to produce chemicals that have really diverse applications.
DAN: So on many of your PowerPoint slides that float around here, there is a term called “Earth’s Secondary Metabolome.” Do you want to explain to people what you mean by that?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah, so in conjunction with us launching our second metabolites group, we launched an initiative at JGI which is really a pilot in bringing together all of our capabilities in this integrative fashion. And we decided we’d focus this on secondary metabolites. And so this is called the Earth Secondary Metabolome Initiative, ESMI, for short. And it’s really combining our work in sequencing and genome mining with using DNA synthesis to express clusters metabolomics to be able to actually identify and possibly even quantify the products coming from these clusters. And then our computational work to link all this together and try to build a seamless pipeline that takes us through these different capabilities. And then to partner up with people that might be interested in testing these in a range of applications.
We’re not going to build out a whole set of bioassays here at JGI. We don’t have the infrastructure. It’s too many resources for us. So we need good people to partner with. And would certainly. If you’re interested in partnering with us to test compounds that we’re isolating, please let us know.
DAN: Yeah, absolutely. There’s lots of opportunities to collaborate with JGI. We have several projects going now. And some collaborations you’ve started and some other cool things that hopefully we’ll get to talk to some people more about down the road. Email Nigel! He’ll sequence whatever you want!
NIGEL MOUNCEY: We have a lot of sequencing capacity. And if people can get us good quality DNA, we can whip them through pretty quick.
DAN: So you started a secondary metabolites group, like I said. And I’m part of that. It’s a few of us now, small little group. What’s your vision for us in our group?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah, so we put out a strategic plan in 2018. And in building that plan, we thought about secondary metabolites. And we thought about grand challenges that exist in the secondary metabolites community. A few examples of those are obviously expanding the diversity of known secondary metabolites and their biosynthetic clusters. How can we basically express clusters on demand? How can we do that at scale – long pieces of DNA? How can we build those, express those, and measure the products?
And not just do this in the tens scale, but can we get to thousands at a time and do this so that we can not only access just new diversity, but actually go and explore it and investigate it. And so that formed the foundation of building a group dedicated to second metabolites at JGI. And we have two arms to the group. One is the computational work that Dan and our new hire, Drew Doering are doing. And the other arm is on the experimental side to look at how we can best express clusters, how we can actually explore the regulation of biosynthetic gene cluster expression in organisms. And that’s led by Hiroshi Otani with his postdoc, Sylvia Kunakom. And so we are exploring a whole different set in a whole range of approaches right now to really try to tackle these grand challenges. And then getting the tools that we develop into the hands of the broader scientific community.
DAN: Do you want to talk about any examples of that?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: So one thing I’m really excited about is actually now integrating our approaches with those of our synthetic biology team who have been really looking at ways to express genes in organisms that haven’t been used for really any genetic manipulation. And so this is really the basis of the CRAGE technology. So this “Chassis-independent, Recombinase-Assisted Genome Editing” technology. So thank goodness we’ve got the CRAGE abbreviation! And this is being used to essentially domesticate a range of different host organisms through introducing “landing pads” that you can then put different payloads into. So we’ve already successfully demonstrated that we can express different clusters as payloads in these different organisms. We’ve now just built out a CRISPR based system that we can use to activate the expression of gene clusters. And I think this is very exciting technology because, I think, we can readily employ this across a whole range of organisms, but then take clusters from other organisms.
And hopefully we’ll have a battery of hosts that at least one will express a cluster that we’re interested in.
DAN: Yeah, we’ve already seen that there’s differential expression of the same DNA across a broad range of expression, I guess you could say, across different hosts. And so being able to look at many, all at once and just find the one that works best for your purpose is a pretty good way to go.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah, my dream is that I don’t think there’ll ever be a sort of golden host that might be able to express everything that we would throw at it. But if we can get a sort of a little collection of hosts that we say, OK, these are ones where we have a really high chance of expressing what we put in there.
And so I think this is really cool technology now that is making up a lot of our expression platform work. And I think as we understand more about regulatory systems that will also help us predict which hosts might be better hosts to use for particular clusters.
DAN: Yeah, I guess I didn’t fully appreciate your regulatory background. So this is…
NIGEL MOUNCEY: It’s a lot on two component systems. And did some sigma factor work and anti-sigma factors. in my past life.
DAN: Yeah, I didn’t really appreciate that that’s your PhD. That’s cool. So where can people hear more about the work that you, our users, and the JGI is doing?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Well– [LAUGHTER] — the best venue for this is our upcoming JGI user meeting that we hold every year. This year’s meeting is going to be fully virtual because we’re not at the stage yet where I think everybody feels comfortable in traveling. So this meeting will run from August 30 to September 1st. The link is found all over JGI’s web pages.
DAN: And I will put it in the show notes along with the CRAGE papers and some spinosyns.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Right, Yeah. So every year we hold this meeting and we really attract just world renowned speakers to talk about the exciting science they’re doing. And not all of these folks are JGI users.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: But they really span our core science programs which are microbes, and fungi, and algae plants, synthetic biology. And so we have, I think, six sessions this year. Great speaker line up. We have a poster session. We have these lounges as well where people can actually talk with people like Dan and myself.
DAN: That’s right. I will be moderating one of those!
NIGEL MOUNCEY: And I even have a directors lounge as well where we’re going to make it a little more informal. People can come in and chat and maybe share a beverage with me and find out more about JGI or the life of the Director.
DAN: Good. Well, feel free to hop into the secondary metabolism lounge too because that’s your turf.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah, great.
DAN: And completely free, right?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: It is completely free this year. We already have 400 plus registrants. We’d love to have a lot more. It is an exciting program.
DAN: Yeah, should be great.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: And then next year we’ll hopefully have it around the same time, August time frame. And we’re hoping that it will be a hybrid in person/virtual meeting.
DAN: Oh, yeah, OK.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: We’re actually going to try to host the in-person part here at the integrative genomics building, Berkeley Lab, our home.
DAN: Oh, I haven’t heard anything about this plan. OK! That’s interesting.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: And give people a chance to see our amazing new home.
DAN: Very nice. All right, cool. Hopefully everything is a little bit better than it is looking right now. And that by next year, things are a little more stable and we can all get together in person.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Well, we hope that all of the vaccines and controls that are in place will help us get on top of this pandemic. And we’ll be able to manage our lives around it and not have it manage our lives.
DAN: That’s the dream.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Right.
DAN: Yeah, all right. So one more thing to talk about. So besides leadership at JGI, you’ve also tried to–
I think one of the things that I really enjoy about the job that I’m doing for you right now is the community building part of it where — people who’ve heard me speak recently have heard me talk about the new data portal that we’re building. And I’ve been eager to reach out to lots of different people and groups and try to find collaborations. And also just understand what it is that the JGI can be doing for the secondary metabolism community. And so that’s me, but you’ve also been doing a fair bit of that. And so I wonder if you want to talk a little bit about your newer leadership roles around the Society for Industrial Microbiology?
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Yeah. So you know I’ve been a long time member of the Society for Industrial Microbiology AND BIOTECHNOLOGY.
DAN: OK. Sorry!
NIGEL MOUNCEY: We added biotechnology a few years ago, so SIMB for short.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: And I would say being–
DAN: I always condense that MB into microbiology and forget. [LAUGHTER] Sorry!
NIGEL MOUNCEY: I think belonging to society really does give you the chance to build those networks of folks that you may not normally run into or interact with in the course of your daily work.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: I think an interesting thing for me being a member of SIMB for many years when I was in industry was that I got to know a lot of people. And then when I became director of JGI, I got to find a lot of these people actually work with JGI and are part of our users. And so that’s been really, really great to not only have the personal relationships, now, more working relationships with these folks.
But a few years ago, I wanted to see how I could actually really help the Society grow. And so I’ve been the chair of the publications committee for the last, what is it now, five years, working through two journal contracts for the Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, which has really give me an insight into the publishing world as we change publishers just this past year to Oxford University Press and change the journal into an open access journal. And so it’s given me a really interesting insight into where publishing is going for journals and the open access movement. And then I am going to start my term as President-elect. This in a couple of weeks actually–
NIGEL MOUNCEY: — which I’m really thrilled about to bring some of the leadership experiences, and ideas, and thoughts, and some things that we’ve been doing at JGI to the society. And help advance society. Certainly wanting to look at how we can forge deeper relationships between industry and the academic scientists in industrial microbiology. How we could think about really helping to grow the workforce of the future. And think about mentorship and diversity and workforce development. And so I’m very excited about having that opportunity, serving as President-elect for a year, and President for a year, and then Past-President for a year.
DAN: Got it. OK, well congratulations on that, and I look forward to big things! All right, well great. I look forward to the JGI meeting. And it’s been a great conversation, Nigel. Thanks so much.
NIGEL MOUNCEY: Great. Well, thanks very much, Dan. And get back to work!
DAN: Will do!
DAN UDWARY: I’m Dan Udwary, and you’ve been listening to Natural Prodcast, the podcast produced by the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science user facility located at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. You can find links to transcripts, more information on this episode and our other episodes at naturalprodcast.com.
Special thanks, as always, to my co-host Alison Takemura. If you like Alison, you want to hear more science from her, check out her podcast Genome Insider. She talks to lots of great scientists outside of secondary metabolism, and if you like what we’re doing here, you’ll probably enjoy Genome Insider too. So check it out.
My intro and outro music are by Jazzar. Please help spread the word by leaving a review of Natural Prodcast on Apple Podcasts, Google, Spotify, or wherever you got the podcast. If you have a question, or want to give us feedback, tweet us @JGI or to me @danudwary. That’s D-A-N U-D-W-A-R-Y.
If you want to record and send us a question that we might play on air, email us at JGI-comms. That’s JGI dash C-O-M-M-S @lbl.gov. And, because we’re a user facility, if you’re interested in partnering with us, we want to hear from you. We have projects in genome sequencing, DNA synthesis, transcriptomics, metabolomics, and natural products in plants, fungi, and microorganisms. If you want to collaborate, let us know. Find out more at JGI.doe.gov/user-programs. Thanks and see you next time.
- Learn more about CRAGE technology in An Age of CRAGE: Advances in Rapidly Engineering Non-model Bacteria
- Check out the agenda for the JGI’s 2021 Annual Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting