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Harold 'Skip' Garner steps down as executive director of Virginia Bioinformatics Institute; Dennis Dean named interim executive director


BLACKSBURG, Va., March 9, 2012 – Dennis Dean, executive director of Fralin Life Science Institute, will assume the additional responsibility of interim executive director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, effective immediately.

Harold "Skip" Garner, executive director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute since 2009, has stepped down from that position to lead the Medical Informatics Systems division at the institute and focus on his scholarly research.

“This is a progressive move for VBI and for Garner,” said Robert Walters, vice president for research, “Medical informatics has become critically important in the past 12 months to the scientific community and to VBI. The Medical Informatics Systems division requires Garner’s dedicated leadership particularly due to his laboratory’s recent breakthroughs in cancer genomics.

“I am deeply grateful Dr. Dean has agreed to take on this additional responsibility,” added Walters. “As director of the Fralin Life Science Institute, Dennis continues to provide leadership and resources to increase the quality, quantity and competitiveness of life science research, education, and outreach at Virginia Tech.”

Joining the Virginia Tech faculty in 1985, Dean directed the Fralin Biotechnology Center for seven years and led the transformation of the center into the Fralin Life Science Institute. From 2008 to 2009, he served as acting director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. A University Distinguished Professor and the Stroobants Professor of Biotechnology, he is involved in both undergraduate and graduate instruction.

Dean’s research is recognized worldwide. He has published more than 160 articles, currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and has recently served on the publications board for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He has received extramural funding to support his research since 1975, including awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National S cience Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Office of Naval Research.

Garner’s current research focuses on three areas: applied computational biology; advanced instrumentation development; and genetics, genomics, and proteomics research that builds on 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 received his Ph.D. in plasma physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1982. He has published widely in leading peer-reviewed journals throughout his career in plasma physics, bioengineering and medical informatics.

He sits on several corporate advisory boards and advises government and private agencies. Garner is the founder of leading-edge biotechnology companies, including Heliotext, Xanapath, BioAutomation, and Light Biology, acquired by Nimblegen (now Roche Nimblegen, Inc.), in 2004.

A university-level Research Institute of Virginia Tech, the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute was established in 2000 with an emphasis on informatics of complex interacting systems scaling the microbiome to the entire globe. It helps solve challenges posed to human health, security, and sustainability. Headquartered at the Blacksburg campus, the institute occupies 154,600 square feet in research facilities, including state-of-the-art core laboratory and high-performance computing facilities, as well as research offices in the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, Virginia.