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Luxembourg Project

During this time period of his life, David was VP and Chief Science Officer for Biology and Life Sciences for Battelle Memorial Institute, a Senior VP at ISB, and, most consequentially, the Principal Investigator for an important collaboration with the government and university in Luxembourg to establish the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine.

It was also at this time that working with Lynn Jorde and Chad Huff, University of Utah, the sequencing of the entire genomes of a full family of four was completed (first time ever accomplished) and two novel disease genes were discovered (see Miller Syndrome).

Université du Luxembourg: In memoriam – Dr David J. Galas

Rudi Balling.jpg

Rudi Balling

Patrizia Luchetta.webp

Patrizia Luchetta

Rudi Balling
Rudi Balling.jpeg

Rudi Balling

Institute of Molecular Psychiatry University of Bonn (current) Founding Director

Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine University of Luxembourg

Rudi, 7. May 2022

Dear David,

Diane told me that your tumour returned. Unfortunately none of us can paint the world like we wish it should be. Except in your paintings, like the beautiful picture from you with the beautiful windows of the Cathedral in Metz, which is hanging in our living room. I often look at this picture which makes me come down conveying a sense of peace and relaxation to me that I would call happiness. I often wonder what you were thinking when you captured the “real” picture in Metz, used the  computer to change it, put your personal message and imprint into it and what you were thinking when you made the decision that this is the painting you wanted to give to me and Anne. 


Maybe I should tell you how how much you imprinted and influenced me personally and how much the success of the Luxembourg project is also yours and Diane’s. It feels good to see the LCSB on the map and on track. At the same time, many of the worries and pains, particularly in the decisive first five years, are now becoming entropic. If anybody understands the intensity of the project, the satisfaction of looking at it after 12 years, but also the relief of handing it over to the next generation, it is you, and Diane of course. I am not sure many people know or understand how much “Skin in the game” this endeavour required not only for me but also for you. It did feel “Kamikazean” more than once. 


When the project was in danger of being parasitised, it was you who provided the scientific and ethical anchor and guidance to keep it alive and on track. You should consider yourself as much of a founder of LCSB as they consider me. “Merci” as the Luxembourgish say. None of this would have ever happened without you. 


When you called me, before the meeting with you and Diane in Berlin in 2008, asking whether Luxembourg had already contacted me, I had no clue what you were talking about. I am not sure you had either :-), but as you know, not having a clue is one of the advantages of the young, naive and innocent. I am not sure I would have accepted the job in Luxembourg otherwise. 


It was a different kind of not having a clue, compared to when you sent me your math papers and the genetic complexity problems that you and Nikita were working on. This not only pushed and forced me to think, learn and deal with algorithmic Kolmogorov complexity and other topics in information theory, but also appreciate the beauty of mathematics. Thank you for opening this world for me.


I feel lucky, privileged and thankful that our path not only crossed, but that I was able to walk jointly with you together in our life for more than a decade. We had met before in the course of the “Darwin”-adventure and in other meetings of the mouse genetics community, but not in the depth and closeness that the challenge to build LCSB brought us.


Whenever we met, exchanged thoughts and ideas, had dinner, talked about big data and big egos, there was a sense of positive, exploratory, constructive curiosity and sincereness to it that I deeply enjoyed and appreciated. What I appreciated and loved most, was your ability to treat highly complex personal challenges with a sense of humour. It took away so much tension and opened the eyes for the important “kernel” that we were dealing with. I never ever had the impression that I had to watch out. I guess “Trust” is the best word to describe my relationship to you. 


One of the most memorable days in my life is our joint canoe-trip around your house on Bainbridge island. You had shown me your paintings before paddling out. The peace of the lake turned into the peace of my mind. 


Thank you David. 

Yours, Rudi


Rudi Balling

Patrizia Luchetta
Patrizia Luchetta.webp

Patrizia Luchetta

Former Director of Life Sciences and Health Technologies 

Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy

I crossed paths with David during my tenure at the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy, where I had the privilege to drive the development and implementation of Luxembourg’s national strategy in the field of biomedical life sciences. At the time David was affiliated with the Seattle-based Institute of Systems Biology, one of the three institutes with which our government had entered a strategic partnership as part of this effort.


Forging strategic partnerships is not always a straightforward process, especially when different cultures and multiples parties are involved. And sure enough, throughout the process we’ve had our fair share of misunderstandings and challenges. But in the end, we succeeded. And David Galas undoubtedly played an instrumental role in making it happen.


See, David is not only an outstanding scientist and researcher. I’ve known David to be a true humanist. An individual who despite his many talents and achievements doesn’t insist on playing the first fiddle, on being on stage. Throughout our negotiations he became a precious mediator helping to identify common ground all while standing firm when necessary. Together with Diane Isonaka, they helped us turn an ambitious project, few believed in at the time, not only to reality but into a success.


A little anecdote that many aren’t probably aware of or don’t recall: David and Diane were also instrumental in getting Prof. Rudi Balling to Luxembourg. They had reached out to Rudi, a friend of theirs, asking him to be part of the jury who was going to select the future director of the Luxembourg Institute of Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), a cornerstone of our project. When hearing about the initiative Rudi decided to be part of it, not as a member of a jury but as a candidate. Eventually he was indeed selected as the founding director of the LSCB, and just as David, contributed to the success and visibility of Luxembourg’s strategic initiative.


On a personal note, I feel very privileged to have crossed paths with David. Both David and Diane became good friends, way beyond our professional ties and way beyond the project that brought us together. I particularly treasure the memory of a short stay, together with my son Noah, at their house on Bainbridge Island. I think there wasn’t a subject left untouched during that get-together, from science, to arts, to nature, to the love of doing good for the sake of mankind… a reflection of David’s nature.


How to conclude something that I do not really want to conclude? The only words I can think of are: “Thank you for being you”.


Patrizia Luchetta


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