James Wyngaarden on HGP Influence on Biomedical Research
  James Wyngaarden     Biography    
Recorded: 18 Aug 2003

I think that it is informing biomedical research in a way that we only guessed at initially. Now such a large fraction of what is being done is informed by genetics. And even areas of science that I would not have predicted would have been influenced by this approach when we started out, and now is strongly influenced by it.

I mean the whole field of asthma is yielding to genetic research. This category of diseases of heart muscle, miocardiopathies, for example. It turns out that there are multiple genes that determine these various muscle conditions of the heart. So it’s just informing almost everything.

And there are some areas where we haven’t made as much progress. For example, I think I might have predicted by this time we would know more about schizophrenia than we do. That’s been very difficult. But sooner or later there will be a great breakthrough, and then that will be explicable in genetic terms, I suspect.

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.