Robert Waterston on Involvement in Genomics: The Human Genome Project
  Robert Waterston     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Jun 2003

Well, that was in the grand plan of things. That was, you know, that was Jim [Watson]’s vision. Our vision was that we wanted to get the worm done. And we were just—I mean—and I think one of the reasons we were successful was simply that [that] was our goal and we didn’t care how we got it done as long as it was working. And we needed it now. And so we just took whatever was available and used it. And we tried to make it better. And over the course of the first three years of the worm project it was clear that what we were doing was working. And that nothing comparable was really being done on the human. That was a close collaboration between me and John Sulston and Alan Coulson. And it dates back to ’85 [which was] well before the worm sequencing started.

Robert Waterston received his bachelor's degree in engineering from Princeton University (1965) and both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago (1972). After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, he joined the Washington University faculty in 1976 where he is the James S. McDonnel Professor of Genetics, head of the Department of Genetics, and director of the School of Medicine’s Genome Sequencing Center, which he founded in 1993. In early 2003 Dr Waterston took on the role of Chair of the department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was a recipient of the International Gairdner Award, the Genetics Society of America’s Beadle Award, the Dan David Prize, and the Alfred P. Sloan Award from the GM Cancer Research Foundation.

Waterston attended the worm meetings at Cold Spring Harbor Lab and in 1989 Watson supported Waterston’s proposal to use the worm as a model organism in the Human Genome Project.