David Cox on Mechanics of the HGP
  David Cox     Biography    
Recorded: 02 Jun 2003

The public perception of what this was going to do impacted what was said and in many ways got in the way of what the science was. Now let me give you an example. What it did is that it polarized issues because that’s what the press tends to do so that people can understand, and it polarized them in terms of the science which wasn’t good. So what do I mean, Classic example is immediate public release of the data. You can’t have immediate public release of the data because just practically on an operational point of view, we discussed this in Bermuda about how it was going to be. How you could get, you know—your reads immediately on the computer and downloaded that night so you knew it was true. So that people argued well let’s be practical about what this means scientifically and how people are going to use it instead of putting our panties in a twist about making sure it’s out within two milliseconds after it comes off the machines. But because of the public nature of this and because it was made, a really important point so that companies or more importantly not companies but individuals couldn’t hold back key information is that there were these extreme statements and to this day it’s made about how things being completely publicly available. So the good guys are the people that make it completely publicly available in a second and the bad guys are the ones that waited a couple of milliseconds before they did it. So this you know is not good. And that’s one example. There’s many, many others where you absolutely want public release of the data. There’s no question about that but it gets polarized in a way that it turns people into good guys and bad guys who got put there for reasons not of their own making often times.

A classic example of that I think was the Japanese sequencing. And so that the—different cultures are very different and they have different political structures. And in one of these Bermuda meetings, I mean Dr. Sukaki was basically put on the rack. You know, was he making his stuff, you know, publicly available or not. It wasn’t like his call, right. There was a lot of complicated things to do in Japan. And so it was really like a “scarlet letter” thing of who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. That came out okay. But it was at great personal pain I think in many situations to certain people.

David Cox received B.A. and M.S. degrees from Brown University and M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Washington. From 1980 to 1993, Dr. Cox held faculty positions in the Departments of Pediatrics, Biochemistry and Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. In 1993, he became Professor of Genetics and Pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as the Co-director of the Stanford Genome Center.

Dr Cox was a co-founder of Perlegen, and has been Chief Scientific Officer of the Company since its formation in 2001. He has served on several international and national councils and commissions including the Council of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) and the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC). He presently serves as a member of the Health Sciences Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine. Dr Cox's honors include election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cox was a member of one of the first groups to begin sequencing the human genome. His relationship with Watson developed from his interest in Cox’s innovative approach to sequencing, called radiation hybrid mapping.

He attended the 68th Cold Spring Harbor symposium to celebrate the completion of the rough draft of the human sequence.