Bruce Roe on Future of Genomics
  Bruce Roe     Biography    
Recorded: 29 May 2003

Oh, I think the future of this field is to take a look at the genome and find out what regions have biological function. And some of the regions are regulatory; they turn genes on and off. Some of the regions make just an RNA copy that goes out and does something, whether it’s a stable RNA that’s part of the protein synthesizing machinery like ribosomes or transfer RNA, or whether it’s a regulatory RNA that turns genes on or off in some way. Or if it’s an RNA that gets translated into protein that actually gives some other kind of biological function. Yeah, I think that that’s one of the areas that we need to look at and that’s an important area of genomics for the future. We also want to take a look why Jim Watson has the handsome gene and I have the ugly gene, you know. I mean it’s really not true that he has the handsome gene. I have the handsome gene, no, just kidding. But in reality, you know why we are all so different. It turns out that we’re not all that different, you know, forgetting the X and Y stuff because you have two copies of the X chromosome, you know, containing the shopping gene and all those kinds of genes. And I have the Y chromosome that is that I refuse to ask for directions genes and the clicker gene, right, for the TV. We’re 99.8 percent identifical. That’s amazing. You know, I mean we all have a nose, right? So if you think about the nose for just a second. If you look at somebody else’s nose, you know, some people have long, skinny noses, short fat noses, turned up noses, boxer’s noses, you know all kinds of different noses, right? And they all have the same function, you know, for sneezing and breathing and little hairs that grow and as you get older they grow more, you know. But all of our noses are different. But they’re all made up of the same stuff. So what’s different about our noses is an example of what’s different about our genomes. And that is we all express the same genes, right? I mean except for those who have some genetic defect of some sort. And hopefully, we can fix that in the near future. But we all express the same genes. We just express them differently. So someone with a long, skinny nose expressed some of the long, skinny-nosed gene for two milliseconds or nanoseconds more than somebody with a shorter nose. It’s the same genes expressed slightly differently. So what we all are—is we’re like orchestras. Some are the Boston Pops; some are the New York Philharmonic; some are the Norman Oklahoma Jive Five, you know. I mean we’re like symphony orchestras and we’re all playing the same instruments, but playing them slightly differently.

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.