Recorded: 31 May 2003
I mean it’s necessary from the sociology of science, there’s no doubt. If you think of other large projects they don’t have to be in biology, there clearly are many other large projects that get done with individual nations or small groups of nations.
I think just relative to the previous thing that I said of ultimately getting biology and powerful tools into the hands of single individuals, single scientists, that I think the international flavor is absolutely critical.
So could the U.S. have gone ahead and done it on it’s own to sequence the human genome? Yes, it may have looked a little different. It may have taken longer. It would have taken more resources, yes! I think it would have happened. But I think it would have changed so much the culture of the field, which is so much necessarily international. Or I should say that I don’t even sometimes like the word “international”, it is just beyond political boundaries, that despite us living within the United States, there are people here just as in this meeting, they’re from everywhere. That I think it would have destroyed that spirit. And that would have been terrible. It would have been a mistake for sure, but it would have been terrible. And I think even though this has made the project perhaps a little bit more difficult because you’re dealing with more people across time zones and across somewhat different funding systems and scientific cultures; it’s been perhaps the most important part of the genome project simply because this is how science happens. And this is how science needs to happen.
Aravinda Chakravarti received his Ph.D. in Human Genetics from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston (1979). After a postdoctoral year at the University of Washington in Seattle, he joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Biostatistics and later the Department of Human Genetics as a professor.
In 1994 he moved to Case Western Reserve as Professor of Genetics and Medicine to apply genomic and computer-based methods to study common diseases that arise from a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors.
Dr Chakravarti is one of the Editors-in-Chief of Genome Research, and serves on the Advisory and Editorial Boards of numerous national and international journals and societies. He is a past member of the NIH National Advisory Council of the National Human Genome Research Institute and has chaired the NIH Subcommittee in the 3rd 5-year Genome Project Plan, and continues to serve on several NIH panels.
In 2000 he became Professor of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and was named director of their new McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, where he is currently the Henry J. Knott Professor and Director.