Leroy Hood on Opposition to the Human Genome Project
  Leroy Hood     Biography    
Recorded: 29 May 2003

Well, there are a lot of things that surprised me about the Human Genome Project. But I guess what surprised me most was how much opposition there was initially to something that so obviously seemed to be really an excellent idea. And I’ve actually seen it throughout my career in biology. Scientists tend to be enormously conservative. They’re really afraid of thinking about new ideas, and taking some risks and some gambles. And most of them are very conservative about changing the way they think and changing the way they do science. So I was, you know, one of those that got out and beat the banner in ’85 to ’90 or so and I was just really struck by what a kind of determined and sometimes even somewhat bitter and somewhat concerned opposition there was for the Human Genome Project.

And also what was remarkable to me was back in those days we articulated most of the ideas. I think most of us had a pretty clear picture of where it was going to go so we could articulate the advantages we see so well today. And yet people didn’t hear them. People were all wrapped up in their concerns about hypothesis driven science and big and small science and those kinds of things. So I think the resistance to change was one of the things that really struck me.

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.