Eric Lander on Competition in Science: Public vs. Private Work on the HGP
  Eric Lander     Biography    
Recorded: 02 Jun 2003

Oh, at the time. It was very clear at the time. That day we had lunch in Huntington-dinner in Huntington-it was clear that having an enemy united people. And that was a good thing. We discussed that then.

Why? Mostly because what Craig was saying-why everybody was angry with Craig was because what Craig was saying was not intellectually honest. He was out there saying that the genome project was stumbling badly. That, you know, it had only done four percent of the job and [he] was going to ride in as a savior and do the whole thing cheaply. And he was not being intellectually honest about the fact that he wasn't talking about producing a finished sequence of the genome. He was talking about producing a very rough draft of the genome. That was a different goal. If that was the goal we were talking about, the genome project was actually pretty far along and could blow that goal away in a relatively modest amount of time.

He was also not intellectually honest about the fact that the data was not going to be freely available as he said they would be. This was a serious problem. The frustration-what differentiated the arguments with Craig from the arguments with everybody else within the human genome project was all the rest of the arguments were passionate and full of consternation and all that, but there was an intellectual honesty about it. There was straightforwardness about it. We disagreed. We disagreed violently with each other in the genome project. But at no point did I feel that somebody was out deliberately to misstate the facts for advantage. And particularly to misstate facts, one of the other questions about whether the data would be available. That is what produced the violent reaction.

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.