Recorded: 14 May 2004
That was a time when people were really starting to think about genes and sequencing the human. But the initiative to say that to sequence all the DNA as a big project, of course, came from the Alta meeting and from the other discussions around that time.
So I was not part of those discussions in 1986. I was busily working on genes and gene sequence trying to figure out what these changes were. But then when someone came to me and said, you know, this discussion about sequencing the whole human genome. It just seemed like such a logical thing to do.
I remember I had kind a of joke folder back then, a little later than that, maybe 1990, I wrote “Human Genome Sequence” on the front of the folder, “base number one” and then an arrow and then I left it blank. So it was as if this was my beginning of the Human Genome Project because in all of these experiments we were sequencing a few hundred bases and it was very difficult, even with the new techniques. So the idea of doing three billion was completely unrealistic at that time. It was just a dream.
Richard A. Gibbs is currently the Director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and the Wofford Cain Professor in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) in 1979 and a Ph.D. in Genetics and Radiation Biology in 1985 at the University of Melbourne in Australia. In 1990 he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, studying the molecular basis of human X-linked diseases and developing technologies for rapid genetic analysis. He developed several fundamental technologies for nucleic acid analysis. In 1991, he joined the BCM faculty and played a key role in the early planning and development phases of the Human Genome Project. In 1996, he established the BCM Human Genome Sequencing Center when Baylor was chosen as one of six programs to complete the final phase of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Gibbs has also made significant contributions to the deciphering of the fly, mouse, dictyostelium, and rat genomes. Among the numerous awards and honors received by Dr. Gibbs, he was awarded the Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Award in 2000.