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Garner to lead Virginia Tech's Virginia Bioinformatics Institute


BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 15, 2009 – Harold "Skip" Garner has been named executive director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech.

Garner joins VBI from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW), where he was professor of biochemistry and internal medicine and the Philip O'Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Chair in Developmental Biology. Before coming to UTSW in 1994, Garner served as a senior staff scientist and founder of the Bioscience Division at General Atomics in San Diego.

“We are delighted to have someone of the caliber of Dr. Garner accept the challenge of leading VBI into its next phase of development”, said Virginia Tech University Distinguished Professor Paul Knox, who chaired the search committee for the executive director position. “Dr. Garner impressed everyone with his enthusiasm and knowledge for VBI and has a clear vision of how to build upon the success of this internationally competitive research institute.”

“I welcome Dr. Garner to VBI and Virginia Tech,” said President Charles W. Steger. “He brings an impressive array of skills and experiences to the university at an exciting point in the growth of our research programs. I know he looks forward to the opportunities to build on VBI’s scientific achievements, to strengthen collaborations with our colleges, to foster innovation throughout our campus, including in undergraduate research, and to embrace the research and education possibilities offered by the new Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute. Dr. Garner’s expertise and fit with Virginia Tech’s many innovative scientific programs will be a key asset moving forward.”

Researchers at VBI are engaged in a wide range of scientific projects that span bioinformatics and systems biology to high-performance computing, complexity science, and policy and decision informatics. “VBI has an excellent track record of exploring the interface of biology, medicine and the physical sciences,” said Gardner.” The institute is in an ideal position to take advantage of the many exciting opportunities that are materializing in fields such as genetics, computational biology, and clinical research. VBI will continue to build on its strengths as one of the leading international institutes for informatics and infectious disease research.”

Garner’s current research focuses on three areas: applied computational biology; advanced instrumentation development; and genetics, genomics, and proteomics research that builds upon software findings and instrumentation capabilities. This includes research projects that focus on text mining (deriving high-quality information from text) and DNA microsatellite analysis (the study of short, repetitive DNA sequences that may have clinical applications).

Garner added: “Opportunities in the life sciences are opening up across the Virginia Tech campus, including possibilities to partner with translational science initiatives at the recently created Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute. VBI will work closely with Virginia Tech and key partners as part of its mission to drive science, facilitate policy and decision-making, and produce meaningful outcomes for society. We will also be moving ahead with our business development efforts to make VBI’s research achievements more available via commercialization.”

Garner received his Ph.D. in plasma physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1982. Garner has published widely in leading peer-reviewed journals throughout his career in plasma physics and bioengineering. He sits on several corporate advisory boards and advises government and private agencies. Garner is the founder of several biotechnology companies, including Heliotext, Xanapath, BioAutomation, and Light Biology, which was acquired by Nimblegen (now Roche Nimblegen, Inc.), in 2004.

About the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute
The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has a research platform centered on understanding the "disease triangle" of host-pathogen-environment interactions in plants, humans and other animals. By successfully channeling innovation into transdisciplinary approaches that combine information technology and biology, researchers at VBI are addressing some of today's key challenges in the biomedical, environmental and plant sciences.