Peter Little on Altering Genetic Destiny
  Peter Little     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

No. I actually think one of the great things about being a human being is you just deal with the cards you’ve been dealt. If you start trying to change those cards, even if it were technically possible, I think your life would be belittled by it. I think half the point of being a human being is to deal with what is put in front of you. You know, to be courageous or to be cowardly or whatever it happens to be. And if you want to avoid things by changing your genes, even if it was possible, I think it’s not something that I would choose to do.

And I’m sure I’ve got some—well, I know I’m a carrier of hemochromatosis. It’s probably of no particular significance medically. But there will be plenty things that if I knew about that you might to not have them. But I’m going to die of something one day and so if I had something more serious than this I think my opinion would be different. If I had been born with a really debilitating disease, I would want to cure it. But being a reasonably healthy human being, I don’t want to touch it. I would love to run one hundred meters. I would love to climb Mt. Everest, even when I was young I did a lot of mountaineering, even though I was young. My physiology was wrong for that and so that’s it. So I stand up in front of my students and say I’ve got a genetic disorder. I can’t run one hundred meters in nine seconds. And it’s true. I can’t and that’s the end of it. And I’ve lived with that appalling deficiency in my life.

Peter Little is a bioinformatics researcher, professor of medical biochemistry and the head of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He received his Ph.D. working with recombinant DNA under Ed Southern and Peter Walker at Edinburgh University. In 1976, Little cloned a human gene – the second time this was ever accomplished.

Little’s laboratory studies the genetic basis of gene expression, and genetic variation as it pertains to the regulatory regions of the genes. He has hypothesized that there are two types of genetic variation that alter gene expression. His lab has also created advanced techniques for testing genetically influenced transcript variations.

He comes to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory regularly for genome meetings and symposia.