UC Davis Genome Center Appoints New Director

Blake Meyers headshot
Blake Meyers has been named the new director and Novozymes Chair in Genomics at the UC Davis Genome Center. Meyers, who studies plant RNA biology, bioinformatics and functional genomics, will step into the role on March 1, 2024. (Courtesy of Danforth Plant Science Center)

UC Davis Genome Center Appoints New Director

Plant scientist Blake Meyers named director of center for technology-driven biology 

Blake Meyers, a principal investigator at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and a professor of plant sciences from the University of Missouri - Columbia, has been named the new director and Novozymes Chair in Genomics at the UC Davis Genome Center. Meyers, who studies plant RNA biology, bioinformatics and functional genomics, will step into the role on March 1, 2024.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Meyers succeeds the center’s founding director Richard Michelmore, a Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Plant Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

Roots at UC Davis

“Blake is a technology-driven biologist; one of the exciting areas in biology is now spatial genomics—and he is a leading practitioner,” said Michelmore, who mentored Meyers as a graduate student and postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis. “It’s the new frontier, and he is the right person to lead the next generation of genomics on campus.”

As a researcher, Meyers has helped apply and advance high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies that have enabled scientists to make fundamental discoveries about the biology of plants and other species. His contributions have led to better understandings of plant growth and development, and have had wide applications in the improvement of crops, including the development of technologies that support the breeding of hybrid crops. He is also the editor-in-chief for the journal The Plant Cell.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to rejoin the UC Davis community and lead the Genome Center, more than 20 years after I left campus for my first faculty job,” said Meyers. “The depth and breadth of research happening at UCD was a powerful attraction – this is the output of the many outstanding faculty, staff, and students. I look forward to helping UC Davis continue to build on its successes in research, education, and workforce development.”

Meyers’ position on campus will be held jointly between the Genome Center, which is administered by the College of Biological Sciences (CBS), and the Department of Plant Sciences, in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Of Meyers’ appointment, CBS Dean Mark Winey said, “Blake’s contributions to our collective understanding of plant biology, as well as his leadership and service in the scientific community make him an exceptional candidate to lead the Genome Center into the next era of cutting-edge research. Like all of us, I am thrilled that he will be returning to campus in this role.”

Center has had Long-Lasting Impact

Michelmore, who was involved with initial planning for the center before starting as its director in 2003, is credited with numerous accomplishments from his tenure as director. Notably, the development of a saliva-based COVID test, which was offered for free to the UC Davis campus and City of Davis communities—an effort that made national headlines, and saw the campus-city partnership touted as an exemplar of successful responses to the pandemic. Michelmore also helped establish the center’s four service core facilities, which provide enabling resources for high throughput biology on campus. Upon completion of his term at the center, Michelmore will return to his faculty role in the Department of Plant Sciences.

The UC Davis Genome Center was established in 2003 with the aim of conducting interdisciplinary research in genomics and related fields, as well as providing resources and training to researchers and students in genomics and bioinformatics. On a year-to-year basis, the center employs 225 people and hosts 25 visiting scholars, with total expenditures exceeding $25 million per year. Its six core facilities, which enable high throughput biology at the DNA, RNA, protein, metabolite and data levels, provide services to more than 700 researchers each year with annual recharge income exceeding $7 million, making the center a powerful force for technology-driven biology at UC Davis.

“It is a joy to welcome Blake back to UC Davis as the director of the high-performing Genome Center,” said Mary Croughan, provost and executive vice chancellor. “He is an Aggie at heart, and he knows and shares our commitment to exceptional research, education and service for the benefit of society, which he learned firsthand working with current Director Michelmore. I look forward to seeing the UC Davis Genome Center’s next chapter of excellence unfold under Blake’s leadership.”

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