Elbert Branscomb on Involvement in Genomics
  Elbert Branscomb     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

Well, there was the irrational inception there of the genome project in effect by the Department of Energy in ‘85, ‘86. And this was essentially by the decision of a guy named Charles DeLisi who was running the DOE’s biology program at the time. And he, in effect said, I want to do this and I want some specific DOE

laboratories to put forward a program to start to sequence the human genome. And so there was a scrambling effort to recruit people who had some marginal excuse for being involved in such a thing. So I had some background that was marginally relevant to this activity and was recruited at Livermore into their efforts at the start.

So that was in ‘86, ‘87, in that time period. I think the first Santa Fe meeting which was organized by DOE, by this guy DeLisi, I think that was in ‘86. And then that was organized about the time he said, you know, get something going. And so there’s much—to my own mind, there’s much about that that is strange and interesting and sort of, irrational or not what you would expect. It’s not the orderly, tidily and well thought through sort of thing.

Elbert Branscomb received his B.A. in physics from Reed College (1957) and his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from Syracuse University (1964). In 1964 he joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as a theoretical physicist and became a senior biomedical scientist in 1969. In 1986, when the Department of Energy (DOE) initiated a program to map and sequence the human genome, he assumed responsibility for the computational and mathematical component of LLNL's human genome program. In 1996 Dr. Branscomb was named the Director of the DOE's Joint Genome Institute. Since November of 2000, he has held the position of Chief Scientist, US DOE Genome Program. In this capacity, he assists the DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the furtherance of its genomics-related research programs. In recognition of his scientific accomplishments, he was awarded the Edward Teller Fellowship in 2001.