Recorded: 14 May 2004
I think there is a huge amount that can happen in five years. Clearly technology is not a limiting factor. Already it seems that the effort to produce one human genome sequence, which involved so many people and so much investment, seems dwarfed already by the number of other genomes which are coming out. I think we will see further potential scale-ups in collecting data on many more genomes so that we understand the species, which evolved from our common ancestors at the molecular level—which is a really new way of looking at evolution and world growth. Also looking at multiple human individuals, really translating the human reference genome into what it means for human population. So there is no limit to technology so over the next five years, a massive amount of data will be created. Clearly the problem in some sense is keeping up with that or understanding exactly what it means.
There are regulatory aspects, ethical aspects, legal aspects, which will certainly require careful thought and handling. Most of those problems aren’t new. We’ve tackled patient confidentiality, personal genetic information at a small level before, over genetic diagnosis. But nevertheless the sheer scale and complexity on which those problems will arise may be something of a challenge. The other thing which I think certainly may take time to catch up to is fully understanding what it means to us as a society, having this information. It does change our way of viewing ourselves. Fred Sanger said, is having the human genome sequence a journey into our own selves? I mean that’s a remarkable thought. It will take many years to really develop as a concept.
David Bentley, molecular biologist and geneticist, is currently Vice President and Chief Scientist of DNA Sequencing at Illumina, Inc., a commercial developer of genetic analysis tools and systems.
Educated at the University of Cambridge (M.A. in biochemistry) and the University of Oxford (Ph. D.), Dr. Bentley was a postdoctoral fellow, lecturer, and senior lecturer at Guy's and St. Thomas's Hospital in London from 1991 to 1993 where he studied mutations that cause genetic diseases, and a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Medical & Molecular Genetics at the University of London.
In 1993 he was brought to Sanger Centre (now known as Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute) as a founding member and head of human genetics by his mentor, John Sulston. Dr. Bentley led Sanger in their major contributions to the Human Genome Project, The Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) Consortium, and the International Haplotype Mapping (HapMap) Project. Dr. Bentley left Wellcome in 1985 to join commercial sequencer, Solexa, Inc., as Chief Scientist where he was responsible for the Company’s DNA sequencing applications development and projects. Solexa was acquired by Illumina in 2007.