Recorded: 09 Apr 2001
The Genome Project has obviously become very visible of late. The Genome is, quote, “finished” the draft sequence. And lots of people have had lots of publicity about it. People talk about Genome Project Nobel prizes, Genome Project da da da da. And something that I think is really important is to remember that without Jim there wouldn’t have been a Genome Project. He made that Genome Project. If one is talking about a prize for the Genome Project, the Human Genome Project, Jim’s name in my view should be front and center stage for any kind of acknowledgment because he had the vision and he had the wherewithal.
Jim was the major figure in making the Genome Project happen. He had the vision and he had the wherewithal to persuade people, and to get the funding, to encourage people to do a project that many people thought was impossible, would be too expensive, would be too distracting, and would not be ultimately worthwhile. He made it happen.
H. Robert Horvitz received his Ph.D. in 1974 from Harvard University, under the tutelage of Jim Watson. He joined the MIT Department of Biology faculty in 1978, and was named David Koch Professor of Biology in 2000. He is also Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was appointed Investigator at the McGovern Institute in 2001.
Horvitz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience. In 2002, he was award the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Sydney Brenner and John Sulston “for their discoveries concerning 'genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death'."
Horvitz currently studies how genes control the development of the nervous system and how the nervous system controls behavior. He has elucidated a molecular genetic pathway for programmed cell death (apoptosis), which is fundamental to nervous system development in all animals.