A Message from Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Director, Office of Science, to the DOE Office of Science and the Science Community about Dr. Aristides Patrinos

Insignia and logo of the Office of Science, US Department of Energy 

January 31, 2006

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to inform you that Dr. Aristides Patrinos, our Associate Director of Science for Biological and Environmental Research, will be leaving the Department of Energy’s Office of Science to become President of Synthetic Genomics, Inc. on February 8, 2006.

Dr. J. Craig Venter founded the company in 2005 to develop and commercialize synthetic biology (http://www.syntheticgenomics.com). Synthetic Genomics is using diverse sets of genes, including those from over 300 fully-sequenced genomes, to develop synthetic organisms for specific industrial applications. Its initial focus is on ethanol and hydrogen production. The company also may apply these scientific advances for the manufacture of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and to develop new ways to enable carbon sequestration and environmental remediation.

Ari Patrinos has been a major figure in the fields of biology and environmental science for many years. He played an historic role in the successful Human Genome Project, the founding of the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the design and launch of DOE’s visionary genomics (GTL) program. He is a leading authority on structural biology, global environmental change, nuclear medicine and health effects, and basic research underpinning DOE’s environmental restoration effort. As those of us who have been privileged to be Ari’s colleague know, he has been a great ambassador for DOE and the Office of Science throughout the scientific community, both here in the U.S. and around the world.

For all his accomplishments and talents, Ari is a remarkably modest man. His official biography mentions his membership in a number of scientific professional societies, but it includes no mention whatsoever of his many awards.

For example, Ari received the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Executives in 2001 “for his exemplary leadership of the human genomic research and global climate change programs, which have resulted in extraordinary public benefits and acclaimed international recognition.” Ari was honored in 2003 with the Secretary of Energy’s Gold Award for his leadership of the Human Genome Project for “this outstanding scientific and management accomplishment [which] has opened the door to the biotechnology revolution that now offers such promise for human health, clean energy and a cleaner environment.” Ari was recognized by President Bush with the 2004 Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executives “for his sustained extraordinary vision, leadership and achievements in genomics and climate change science.” And next month, at the AAAS annual meeting in St. Louis, Ari will be inducted as an AAAS Fellow “for truly outstanding direction and implementation of interdisciplinary projects, especially with respect to leadership in genome research.”

We also know Ari is devoted to his family, including his wife Kathryn and daughters Maritsa and Thalia. He has a great passion for the Rolling Stones and for soccer, especially the English club Arsenal and the Greek team AEK. We were delighted, if not surprised, to learn that, in a poll by the major daily paper in Athens to determine the 2005 Person of the Year in Greece, the newspaper’s readers ranked Dr. Patrinos fifth!

I have accepted Ari’s resignation with sincere regret – he is an integral part of our Office and embodies the very best of DOE science – but I also congratulate him on this outstanding opportunity and wish him continued success in his new position. We will miss him. I am confident we will continue to hear from and about this marvelous scientific pioneer for many more years to come.

Signature of Dr. Raymond L. Orbach 
Raymond L. Orbach
Director, Office of Science
U.S. Department of Energy