Leroy Hood on 2003 Cold Spring Harbor Symposium: The Genome of Homo Sapiens
  Leroy Hood     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Jun 2003

What was impressive about this meeting—it was—is that it was obvious to me that the human genome would drive high through-put biology, the need to have high through-put DNA sequencing to get it done was obvious.

But it was also obvious once we knew all the genes and we knew all the proteins we’d have to have lots of other technologies as well. What was, I think, a little less felicitous was when several of us went out into the community and started talking about the human genome project and realized that ninety percent of the community of biologists was quite opposed to the project.

And they were opposed on different grounds. I mean, maybe the most serious ground was the idea that the genome project wasn’t hypothesis-driven it was discovery driven which was quite true, I mean. The object wasn’t to do an experiment. The object was to discover all the genes and put them in a catalog and have biologists, all biologists be able to use those genes.

But the others who really brought up the big science-small science, the big science will swallow the small science and we can’t have the funding for such a big project. Then there were others who worried about the idea that only one of two percent of the DNA was actually involved in genes so you’d mostly be sequencing junk. And so the people were opposed had many, many arguments and they didn’t hear the advantages and the, in the ensuing four or five years there was a lot of back and forth. The pivotal turning point was when Bruce Alberts actually was appointed to chair a committee that was made up of both opponents and proponents to review the human genome project. A committee from the National Academy of Science, and the report of the committee was unanimously in favor of it and this foreshadowed the start of the genome project in 1990.

I’m here because one of the topics of the symposia is after the genome what is going to happen. And our institute is about one of the major things that will happen after the genome.

Leroy Hood, a leading scientist in molecular biotechnology and genomics, received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins Medical School (1964) and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Caltech (1968). In 1992, after more than 20 years as a faculty member at Caltech, where he and his colleagues revolutionized genomics by developing automated DNA sequencing, he relocated to the University of Washington to establish the cross-disciplinary Department of Molecular Biotechnology.

Dr. Hood is currently President of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle where he leads efforts to pioneer systems approaches to biology and medicine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received the Lasker Award for his studies on the mechanism of immune diversity.

Sharing an interest in the study of antibody diversity, Hood and Watson met in 1967 when Hood attended his first meeting at CSHL. Leroy has been working on the genome since the late 70’s. He went to the first official genome meeting in Santa Cruz in 1985 and has attended all of the subsequent meetings which have been held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.