It is with much sadness that we recently learned of the passing of Mark Boguski, MD, PhD, a former Senior Investigator in the Computational Biology Branch at NCBI. Mark worked at the NCBI from 1989-2000 and made a lasting impression on the staff who are still with NCBI and who overlapped with his time here. Many of them have commented on social media about their personal interactions and fond memories of Mark.
Figure 1. Part of an alignment from a translating BLAST (blastx) search of a modified chicken translation factor sequence that Mark provided to Michael Crichton for The Lost World. Mark had edited the sequence by inserting DNA codons that BLAST translates to ‘MARK WAS HERE NIH’ thus leaving his autograph.
We all remember Mark as a terrific teacher. He was most adept at finding the key nugget in any topic and presenting it in such a way that he made you feel that you were learning something new. One of the lasting memories of Mark will be his analysis of the DNA sequence in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park (1990). In the book, Crichton’s supposed dinosaur DNA turned out to be just pieces of a cloning vector. So, Mark published a tongue-in-cheek paper in BioTechniques about his analysis and wondered why Crichton didn’t come up with a more creative sequence. He wrote to Crichton and suggested a chicken transcription factor gene that he had been working on. To Mark’s surprise and joy, Crichton incorporated it into his sequel, The Lost World. Many of us at NCBI have continued to use the sequence from Jurassic Park and Mark’s sequence from The Lost World as entertaining examples when teaching people about BLAST (Figure 1).
After leaving NCBI, Mark worked in the genomics and pharmaceutical industries. He held leadership positions at Rosetta Inpharmatics, the Allen Institute for Brain Science (as Founding Director), and Novartis Pharmaceuticals. He was also co-founder of PhotoCalorie LLC and Celebrity Diagnosis LLC. Most recently, Mark was the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Liberty Biosecurity LLC and held academic positions at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.