Charles Delisi on The Santa Fe Workshop
  Charles Delisi     Biography    
Recorded: 08 Sep 2003

So that was around October ’85. I spoke to David. We decided we would have a workshop [and] try to invite a large number of geneticists, of leading geneticists. I asked Mark Bitensky then who was head of the health science division at Los Alamos to organize the meeting. I saw this as central to the DOE mission because I thought the reference sequence would allow us to ultimately, which it has, it will, to get at the question of polymorphism. It’s interesting because I would typically get questions like—when this became public—whose genome are you going to sequence. There are six billion genomes in the world. Isn’t it ridiculous to talk about sequencing the human genome. And even some fairly smart people who you would think would have understood the point of a reference sequence—you know, my answer used to be depending upon the mood I was in, I would say “everyone’s and no one’s. That’s the answer!” Because that was exactly what we were doing. We are not doing any particular sequence. It could be a mosaic of several people, but we were getting a reference and the point of the reference, what made the reference so powerful is that two sequences from different people only differed by one base in a one thousand.

So we’re after the reference sequence. We organize the Santa Fe meeting. That meeting turned out to be, to provide a lot of information. In particular, we found that there was enormous enthusiasm for the idea. And we started planning it. Now that meant what I had to do is, first of all I had to convince the Department of Energy, which was a physics organization that it had to be done.

Charles DeLisi did pioneering work in theoretical and mathematical immunology. He received his Ph.D. in physics and did postdoctoral studies in the chemistry department at Yale University researching RNA structure. He became a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and then moved to the National Institute of Health, where he worked on molecular and cell immunology for ten years.

DeLisi is currently director of the Biomolecular Systems Laboratory, Chair of the Bioinformatics Program, Metcalf Professor of Science and Engineering and Dean Emeritus of the College of Engineering at Boston University.

Charles DeLisi develops computational methods for high throughput genomic and proteomic analysis. His laboratory is helping to develop technologies for fingerprinting the complete molecular state of a cell. He is interested in finding computational methods for determining protein function and researches the structural basis of signal translation by membrane bound receptors, the structural basis of voltage gating, and the docking of peptide hormones and neurotransmitters at their sites of action.

In 1986, DeLisi and Watson met at a CSHL meeting and spoke about their interests in sequencing the human genome.