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Perspektive Bioinformatik - Dr. Thomas Werner

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Interview with Dr. Thomas Werner, CEO of Genomatix Software GmbH, 30 June 2004

Curiculum Vitae

Thomas WernerThomas Bernd Werner (Dr. rer. nat. habil., Dr. rer. nat.)

Chief Executive Officier & Chief Scientific Officer

Genomatix Software GmbH
Landsberger Strasse 6
D-80339 München
Germany
Tel. +49-89-599766-0
FAX: +49-89-599766-55
email: werner(at)genomatix.de
WWW: http://www.genomatix.de

1997 - present CEO & CSO of Genomatix Software GmbH
1988 - 2002 Head of AG BIODV bioinformatics group, Institute of Experimental Genetics, GSF- Research Center for Environment and Health GmbH
1986 - 1988 Postdoctoral scientist, Institute of Mammalian Genetics, GSF- Research Center for Environment and Health GmbH

Education
2002 Dr. habil. (German professor level) Genetics, Technical University of Munich
1986 PhD (Dr. rer. nat.) Biochemistry, Ludwig Maximilian's University of Munich
1981 M.S., Chemistry (Chemie-Diplom), Ludwig Maximilian's University of Munich

Business
2003 Genomatix releases BiblioSphere, an innovative text-mining tool integrating text and sequence analysis. Adds one employee.
2002 Genomatix releases the new genomics search engine ElDorado and the Genomatix Suite. Completes last investment milestone.
2001 Genomatix moves to new offices, grows to 16 employees.
2000 Genomatix closes first investment round, grows to 8 employees, completes major scientific breakthrough in promoter analysis enabling genome wide analysis of human genome draft.
1999 Genomatix release of first integrated product GEMS Launcher.
1998 Genomatix moves to new offices, grows to 4 employees, introduces initial products to the market.
1997 Genomatix is incorporated in October.

Science

Publications: 121, 47 of which directly about bioinformatics, reviewer for 22 journals including Nature Genetics, PNAS, Trends in genetics and others.

Interview

What is the greatest potential of bioinformatics?

Bioinformatics, in all its current facets, ranging from microarray statistics to systems biology, has the potential to become in molecular biology and pharma research what molecular biology has become in biology: An indispensable part transpiring almost all fields. I do not see a long term potential for bioinformatics as isolated discipline. Bioinformatics is more a part of biology where all the applications are than of computer science from which the technology is derived.

Which skills does a bioinformatician need to work in industry?

A solid knowledge of bioinformatics as well as the ability to learn quickly the biology pertinent to the projects he/she will be assigned to. Also the ability to communicate with pure biologists as well as with computer scientists is important. His/her job will often enough be that of a translator.

What do you look for when hiring bioinformaticians?

I look for people who keep an open mind for unconventional approaches. This includes a sufficiently critical view of the accepted procedures. For example, it is great to know exactly how BLAST works or how to build a hidden Markov model. Knowing where such tools are actually not applicable is about as important, but rarely taught.

What is the future of bioinformatics, especially in industrial applications?

I envisage bioinformatics methods to be the general guideline of experiments; much like Computer-aided-design is now guiding almost all developments of new cars.

Why is Genomatix focusing on gene regulation?

Gene regulation has been identified as the most important principle that explains the difference between complex organisms, ultimately the difference between mice, apes and man. We are currently learning that gene regulation is also most likely the invisible orchestrating force behind complex metabolic networks and disease mechanisms. People at Genomatix have been dealing with gene regulation long before all this was known, and this long-terms experience now bears fruit. We believe that gene regulation will be pivotal in most areas of biological as well as pharmaceutical research. And like everybody else we at Genomatix like the idea of a place on center stage.

Can a bioinformatician attain a leading position in industry?

Leading positions are not acquired by scientific education in a particular field. They require general leadership qualities such as a good overview of large projects, the ability to see and to set the right priorities and last not least social skills enabling successful motivation of employees. Since bioinformatics is traditionally located at the edge of two different fields, it might be a good training to obtain or develop such abilities.

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