Hamilton Smith on Future of Genomics
  Hamilton Smith     Biography    
Recorded: 03 Mar 2006

Well, I’m convinced that if Craig hadn’t gotten into the human genome, we would barely have it by now. Instead we got it five years earlier, although it’s taking a while to finish it off. It’s never going to be quite finished, unless we get a new method of sequencing, because there’s regions that don’t clone. You’re always limited by the cloning. Now there’s a new line of sequencers coming out that don’t require cloning. Yeah, we have one. It’s in service. It contributes a lot to our sequencing power over here. As Craig likes to say, we used to have—we used to be able to do a 100 million letters a day, but then we added a 454 and we can do 200 million a day. That’s not quite true, but it’s close. I think the ultimate answer is going to be some physical method to actually linear—or electronic method, to read a single molecule with extremely high accuracy. Where you pour the DNA in, it goes through little nano-channels, and it gets read electronically. I know what should be built, I just can’t do it. I am convinced that we’ll have many, many genomes by the end, and we’ll begin to really see how phenotype derives from the variability that’s in the genomes. And then we’re going to have all sorts of ethical and political problems deriving from that.

Hamilton Smith is a U.S. microbiologist born Aug. 23, 1931, New York, N.Y. Smith received an A.B. degree in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1952 and the M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1956. After six years of clinical work in medicine (1956-1962), he carried out research on Salmonella phage P22 lysogeny at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1962-1967). In 1967, he joined the Microbiology Department at Johns Hopkins.

In 1968, he discovered the first TypeII restriction enzyme (HindII) and determined the sequence of its cleavage site. In, 1978 he was a co-recipient (with D. Nathans and W. Arber) of the Nobel in Medicine for this discovery.

He is currently the Scientific Director Synthetic Biology and Bioenergy Distinguished Professor at the J. Craig Venture Institute in Rockville, Maryland.