Recorded: 02 Jun 2003
It was incredibly painful. Every bit of it was painful. It was wonderful and all that. I mean I couldn't imagine life without being part of the human genome project. This was always the most difficult part. Every two years there were deep depressions over all of this because it was very frustrating. Why was it frustrating? Nobody really knew how to do anything like this. There were just contending forces. The sociology of that human genome project was very interesting. There was large scale versus small scale. There were those who wanted to perfect everything and those who wanted to do things at a very large scale. Figuring that even if it wasn't perfect it was far more important to solve the problem of scale. How to generate a lot of data at ninety percent good rather than to generate a little data at one hundred percent good. Arguments about this. It drove me crazy.
I came down very much down on the side that scale was a really important problem. We had to crack scale and we had to take on large things. And when we started our genome center, everybody else put in to do an individual human chromosome and map it.
Eric Lander earned his A.B. in mathematics from Princeton University (1978) and D.Phil. in mathematics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University (1981).
He first came to the Whitehead Institute as a Whitehead Fellow in 1986, while still an assistant professor of managerial economics at the Harvard Business School and is currently Director of the Whitehead Center for Genome Research and Professor of Biology at MIT. As director of the Whitehead Center for Genome Research, Dr Lander has been one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, contributing 30 percent of the total sequence of the human genome and developing and making freely available many of the key tools used in modern mammalian genomics.
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and has been awarded the Beckman Prize for Lab Automation, the Chiron Prize for Biotechnology, and the Gairdner Award for his outstanding contribution to genomic research.
Lander has attended every human genome meeting at CSHL. At the request of Jim Watson, Lander gave his first lecture at the 1986 CSHL symposium on the Molecular Biology of Homo Sapiens.