James Wyngaarden on Opposition to the HGP
  James Wyngaarden     Biography    
Recorded: 18 Aug 2003

Well, I began to talk about it more seriously within NIH. And the more I talked about it, more resistance rose. It was very, I wouldn’t quite say hostile reaction to it, but it was certainly very negative. And one or two institute directors were very, very vocal and strongly opposed. So I began to take some soundings and as this was getting more publicity and articles appearing, say in Science magazine, the scientific community was reacting. And very important scientific opinion leaders like David Baltimore, for example, were strongly opposed to it. And many others too, but he was one of the most prominent. So it was a divisive issue from the beginning. And for the same reasons that I have given regarding reactions of internal NIH directors, we got all of those from the community. Then there was organized opposition against it. It was started really by a few biochemists and over a period of time letters came in. That continued for several years actually. And frequently there was a writing campaign. All the same letters, somebody, got everybody else to write them. And they were mostly from young biochemists and young cell biologists, who again felt threatened by this. They felt that funds would be available for that and not for their work.

James B. Wyngaarden is a medical doctor, biochemist and medical science advisor. He served as director of the National Institutes of Health, associate director for Life Sciences in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, and as director of the Human Genome Organization. Wyngaarden is currently part of the Washington Advisory Group, LLC and director of four biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies. Wyngaarden is also co-author of the textbook The Metabolic Basis of Inherited Disease.

He researches the regulation of purine biosynthesis, the production of uric acid and he helped initiate the use of allopurinol, a drug developed as an anticancer agent and now used as a treatment for gout. While serving as director of the National Institutes of Heath, he enlisted the help of Dr. Watson in 1988 to begin the Human Genome Project. Jim obliged and joined the NIH as the associate director for Human Genome Research, while still acting as director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.