This week we’re talking to George Asimenos, our director of science and clinical solutions. George came to DNAnexus when it first started, and has played a pivotal role in building the scientific and engineering foundation of the company ever since.
Q: What do you do at DNAnexus?
A: I’ve been with DNAnexus since the very early days, so I’ve done pretty much everything — from searching for ofﬁce space, assembling desks, and unloading the dishwasher, to hunting for executives, writing code, and watching that code unfold on the cloud. These days I’m focusing more on science, exploring ways in which DNAnexus can help its customers reach new scientiﬁc frontiers and accelerate DNA-based medicine.
Q: Where were you before?
A: I was previously a student at Stanford University, doing a Ph.D. in computer science. It’s where I fell in love with biology and genomics.
Q: What attracted you to DNAnexus?
A: I could not say no to such a great founding team: my Stanford thesis advisor, Serafim Batzoglou; my Stanford reading committee chair, Arend Sidow; and my best Stanford student colleague, Andreas Sundquist.
Q: What have you learned since joining the company?
A: Things move very quickly at a startup company, and I’ve learned to welcome change. Where your ofﬁce is located, what your logo looks like, who you report to, what your product does and who you build it for. As the ancient Greek aphorism goes, “Panta rhei” — “everything flows.”
Q: If you weren’t a scientist at DNAnexus, where would you be?
A: I would be a food critic, ideally an inspector for the Michelin guide. Tasting menus of the world would rejoice!
Q: Fill in the blank: There is probably a genetic link to ______.
A: Aging. It’s complicated, but DNA is certainly implicated. Hopefully we can make advances in understanding how they are related during this lifetime.
Q: If you could have any person’s genome sequenced, whose would it be?
A: I think it’s time to sequence some great foods and figure out what genes make for a tasty olive oil, a succulent tomato, and an aromatic oregano (ideally combined into a salad).
Q: Tell us one thing about yourself that nobody at DNAnexus knows.
A: Throughout Stanford’s SURG101 (an anatomy class where students, in groups of 10, dissect a whole human cadaver over the course of several weeks), my team ran behind during the week devoted to arm dissection. We were able to ﬁnish only the left arm of our cadaver. So I went back into the lab on Sunday, and spent all day dissecting the right arm myself — a life changing experience discovering the awe-inspiring complexity of the human body.