David Botstein on The Future of Genomics
  David Botstein     Biography    
Recorded: 28 May 2003

I’m not very good at the future. I think that what is going to happen is that we’re going to learn a lot more about human biology together with all the other biology and I think the consequence is going to be more from the infrastructure value of the genome than from the explicit genomic science at least in the beginning in the human. I think where genomic science is going to make the huge impact is as usual is with the model organisms where you can do real experiments at the system level. Where you can do evolution in the test tube. Where you can make constructions and test out ideas which you can’t do for a great variety of reasons in the human.

So I think that the genomics, the big impact of genomics, the intellectual impact of genomics is what I like to call the grand unification of biology. No longer can anyone argue that what is not true—no longer can anyone argue that it’s different in metazoans or different in humans or different in some area. Right now all the information you get about any of the organisms is relevant. And that unification, I think, is going to produce a huge amount of information that is relevant to the human and it will be indirectly only applied to humans and will be indirectly only coming from genomics. But the core of it is the fact that we now understand much better not only what’s true; but how to learn about it.

David Botstein is a prominent geneticist whose advocacy for gene mapping was crucial in laying the groundwork for the Human Genome Project. Botstein received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan for his research on bacteriophage synthesis. As a member of the MIT faculty he continued working with phage P22 DNA and discovered many bacterial and yeast genes. He served as Vice President of Science at Genentech before becoming professor at the Stanford School of Medicine where he led in sequencing the first large eucaryotic genome.

On July 1, 2003 he was appointed as Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University. At Princeton he will continue to expound upon genome projects, explore the relationship between genes within the genome, and uncover how diseases like cancer alter the expression of genes.

Botstein researched at the CSHL while on sabbatical from 1974-1975. At the 1986 CSHL symposium on Human Genetics he played a crucial role in advocating for the Human Genome Project. While serving on the National Research Council Committee he emphasized that money be laid aside to fund the sequencing of other simpler organisms with which the human genome can be compared. Like Jim Watson, he has passionately supported the Human Genome Project since its inception.