David Bentley on ‘Bermuda Principles’ Meetings
  David Bentley     Biography    
Recorded: 14 May 2004

One of the most important early meetings, which really helped shape the human genome project, and particularly to help shape the spirit in which it was carried out was the first meeting held in Bermuda [1996]. It had to be held in neutral territory, but also British soil because the Wellcome Trust funded it from British funds.

So, jokingly, it could only be in one or two places and Bermuda was one of them. The first Bermuda meeting was a very exciting time. It was quite a tense meeting. It was drawn together very quickly. I remember scribbled sheets of paper passing across John Sulston’s table and being faxed from one place to another. A number of labs were involved in pulling together a very hasty and small list of participants to try nevertheless to make a great effort to get the balance right. Even if it was meant to be a very informal meeting as indeed it was, a very free flowing informal meeting. A great deal happened, I think, in the space of forty-eight hours in Bermuda. Not only was it exciting to share small but significant amounts of data that really, perhaps, convinced us how to do it and that it should be done [but] there wasn’t even a set way to do it at that point. But there was enough information on the table to make us all think, yes, it could be done. Most importantly perhaps was the spirit of deciding that the information—should all be made freely available, and in the public domain. That was a momentous discussion, which probably only lasted a couple of hours, but it seemed rather longer.

To achieve that consensus at the first Bermuda meeting a very well formulated statement, the Bermuda statement [was created], which, of course, has remained constant ever since. To establish that large scale sequences from the human genome would be realized promptly into the public domain, as it was created. That really summed up the first Bermuda meeting.

The exciting thing was the follow-up. We met again in subsequent years, again in Bermuda, not only serving greatly to reaffirm that commitment to progress to establish in particular [but also] the second Bermuda meeting established the principle of the very high quality that the human genome sequence should be completed to, and that was an important resolution.

At the third Bermuda meeting, while again helping to really develop the strength of the community during the project and to welcome new members to it, I think [was] also to extend the principle to other organisms as well. That was a very optimistic note to the third Bermuda meeting; that similar genome sequence data from other organisms would also be placed and made freely available in the public domain.

David Bentley, molecular biologist and geneticist, is currently Vice President and Chief Scientist of DNA Sequencing at Illumina, Inc., a commercial developer of genetic analysis tools and systems.

Educated at the University of Cambridge (M.A. in biochemistry) and the University of Oxford (Ph. D.), Dr. Bentley was a postdoctoral fellow, lecturer, and senior lecturer at Guy's and St. Thomas's Hospital in London from 1991 to 1993 where he studied mutations that cause genetic diseases, and a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Medical & Molecular Genetics at the University of London.

In 1993 he was brought to Sanger Centre (now known as Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute) as a founding member and head of human genetics by his mentor, John Sulston. Dr. Bentley led Sanger in their major contributions to the Human Genome Project, The Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) Consortium, and the International Haplotype Mapping (HapMap) Project. Dr. Bentley left Wellcome in 1985 to join commercial sequencer, Solexa, Inc., as Chief Scientist where he was responsible for the Company’s DNA sequencing applications development and projects. Solexa was acquired by Illumina in 2007.