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In 1994, the DOE initiated the Microbial Genome Project. The Genomics: Genomes to Life (GTL) Program has the goal of trying to "solve" a microbe. The goals of the GTL Program include identifying the microbial protein machines that carry out key functions, characterizing gene regulatory networks that control these machines, exploring the functional repertoire of complex microbial communities in their natural environments, and developing computational capabilities to begin to model complex biological systems. It is DOE's ambition that the GTL program, both its science and its future capabilities and centers, will open new avenues of inquiry in biology and fundamentally change the course of biological research.
Drell received his B.A. in Biology, Magna cum Laude, from Harvard College in 1974 and his Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in 1980. After a year of post-doctoral research at the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York, Drell did research in reproductive immunology at the Rockefeller University, continuing this work at the Baylor College of Medicine from 1982-1983. He then joined the Laboratory of Oral Medicine of the National Institute of Dental Research at the NIH in Bethesda, MD, carrying out research on other topics in immunology as a Staff Fellow until 1986. From 1986 to 1990, Drell was at the George Washington University Medical Center, finishing as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine and Associate Director of the Immunogenetics and Immunochemistry Laboratories. Prior to joining DOE in 1991, Drell worked as a Visiting Scientist in the HLA Laboratory of the American Red Cross Holland Laboratory in Rockville.