SHANGHAI, CHINA—Surprising many in the worldwide genomics community, the head of Shenzhen-based sequencing powerhouse BGI stepped down earlier this month. Jun Wang will now concentrate on research into artificial intelligence (AI), the institute announced on 17 July.
Wang, 39, has been with BGI from its 1999 inception as the Beijing Genomics Institute. While still a Ph.D. candidate at Peking University, Wang led the bioinformatics team as BGI completed China's contribution to the Human Genome Project and then sequenced the rice genome on its own. Wang took on additional responsibilities as BGI launched more ambitious projects, including sequencing the giant panda as well as multiple silk worms to identify genes selected for during domestication. He became executive director in 2008 as BGI pushed into providing sequencing services to other research groups, diagnostics, and applications in agriculture. Along the way, BGI moved from Beijing to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and grew into a global operation, with 5000 employees working at offices scattered around the world.
Wang gained fame throughout the community for his quick decision-making and a willingness to take on ambitious projects, such as an ongoing effort to sequence the genomes of all 10,500 or so bird species.