Bruce Roe on Dangers of Genomic Research
  Bruce Roe     Biography    
Recorded: 29 May 2003

Well, I think the biggest danger from genomic research is for genetic based data to be used against us for insurance purposes or for other things. I think the benefits far outweigh the dangers, okay? I think we have to do diligence and, in fact, there are laws now that are passed through Congress [such as] the Kennedy Kassebaum Act and President Clinton had an ongoing resolution that you can’t use genetic basis for discrimination. It’s interesting that the original start of the preventing genetic discrimination in humans occurred as a continuing resolution when Congress, during the Civil Rights period because they passed something that said you cannot be prejudiced against someone if they have sickle cell anemia which happened, of course, in African-American and African-based populations, okay? And now in Eastern Europeans with beta-thallasemia and stuff. So there’s some ethnic basis for the genetic testing of things. And you can’t use that against people. And now that hopefully will be the case throughout. So that’s my biggest fear is the misuse of this. But, you know, this is the first and only project, and we can thank Jim Watson for this that actually had built into it to study the ethical aspects of the genome. And that’s been really important and has laid the groundwork for Congress to act sensibly.

Bruce Roe is a George Lynn Cross Research Professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a Ph.D in biochemistry from the University of Western Michigan and received a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship to research at SUNY Stony Brook. He spent his 1978-79 sabbatical at Fred Sanger’s lab, where he helped develop the renowned method of DNA sequencing currently used today.

Roe is founding director of the Advanced Center for Genomic Technology (ACGT) at the U. of Oklahoma, one of the first large-scale sequencing facilities in the US. At present, the ACGT innovates computational and robotic methods to analyze DNA sequence results and is currently determining the nucleotide sequence of five microbial genomes. In 1999, Roe’s research led to the elucidation and publication of the complete sequence of human chromosome 22. This was the first human chromosome to be sequenced in its entirely.

He has attended genome meetings and symposia at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for over 20 years.