Ulf Pettersson on Dangers of Genomic Research
  Ulf Pettersson     Biography    
Recorded: 20 Aug 2003

I think not so much. I think that most of the things are exaggerated in the debate. Discrimination, I think, is probably the most important thing. The other thing that we don’t know so much about yet is how much information we could get about our future from the knowledge about our genes. Today it costs a fortune to sequence one’s genome, but maybe in another ten or twenty years, this could be routine. So when you go to the hospital they do the sequence of your genome. You might get some knowledge that you would like not to have. I think one has to think about not only what—you have the right not to know, I think, might be very important to have. If you have to live with the knowledge that you have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s might be pretty difficult. I mean you may not develop it. I mean we are not talking about black and white things. You have the probability that is increased. I mean it could still ruin your life, the knowledge. And that could be a problem.

Ulf Pettersson, geneticist and virologist, is the vice-president of the University of Upssala in Sweden, a professor of medical genetics, and a leader of a group on genetic disease in the Department of Genetics and Pathology. His scientific research is focused on finding genes linked with diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

After finishing his medical degree in Sweden and his thesis on adenovirus proteins, he came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He worked as a postdoc alongside Joe Sambrook and Rich Roberts. He researched transcription and the methods by which to grow and extract adenovirus DNA and studied how to use restriction enzymes to map viral chromosomes. His work led to the understanding of how the chromosome is organized and how transcription takes place. In the 80’s he slowly altered his concentration from virology to genetics.

After leaving Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1973 he became a professor of microbiology at the University of Uppsala and then chairman of the Department of Medical Genetics. He was a member of the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) (1992-1998), and is currently a member of both the Finnish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Academy of Sciences.