Director, Biosecurity and Biomedical Initiatives
Dr. Paul Gilna is director of Biosecurity and Biomedical Initiatives at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Dr. Gilna had previously served as director of the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) at ORNL. As the BESC Director, Dr. Gilna led a basic and applied research project underlying the development of more cost effective transformation of biomass products into biofuels over a 10-year period until the end of the Fiscal Year 2017. The research focused on understanding and overcoming the difficulty in converting cellulosic, or woody, products into sugars, which are in turn fermented into biofuels. BESC included 17 research partners from other national laboratories, universities, and private corporations. BESC was in turn a partner with two other centers, the Joint BioEnergy Institute at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. BESC was funded at $25 million per year from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Office of Biology and Environmental Research.
Dr. Gilna’s career has been spent at the intersection of computation and biology. After receiving his Ph.D. in pharmacology from University College Dublin, Gilna focused his research on the field of molecular biology. Papers summarizing his postdoctoral work on cloning and sequencing of human estrogen and progesterone receptors became the basis of genetic testing for predisposition to breast cancer. Gilna shifted his work to focus on the field of computation biology, taking a position at GenBank, the collection of publicly available gene sequences then managed out of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). At GenBank, Gilna was instrumental in developing the now widely accepted requirement that authors of journal articles submit gene sequences to GenBank in exchange for an accession number printed with the article. His work to set up computational tools and annotated genetic-sequence databases through GenBank has aided the research of countless scientists. Gilna remained with GenBank until it moved to the National Institutes of Health. He then took a position as a Program Director at the National Science Foundation’s Division of Biological Infrastructure, spending two years there before returning to LANL.
Before coming to ORNL and BESC, Gilna was the Executive Director at the Community Cyberinfrastructure for Advanced Marine Microbial Ecology Research and Analysis project (CAMERA), a program devoted to creating a community resource focused on enabling microbial ecology research using next generation genomics technologies. The project was located at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and the Center for Research in Biological Systems, both at the University of California, San Diego. The CAMERA project was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Gilna is a former Director of the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) operations at LANL, has served in the management role of Group Leader of Genomic Science and Computational Biology at LANL and has also served as Division Director of LANL’s Bioscience Division. He has served as editor of the journal DNA Sequence and Genomics, and has served on grant review panels for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Office of Naval Research as well as a number of international review panels in the European Union. Gilna has also served on the Executive Advisory Council for the San Diego Supercomputing Center and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. (formerly SAIC-Frederick, Inc.)