Leroy Hood on Nature Vs. Nurture
  Leroy Hood     Biography    
Recorded: 29 May 2003

I think the human genome project probably says nothing about genetic determinism. I mean, if—we know that there are clearly two types of biologic information in living organisms. So one type of information deals with digital coding—the genome, okay. And the second is environmental information. And we know that living organisms develop and function as a consequence of the interplay of these things. So it’s quite clear in some cases genes may play a much bigger role in influencing behavior and in other places environment plays quite a large role. But in a lot of the complicated things that we’re really interested in we don’t really have any idea where the balance between those two things is. So—and I would say the two are always interplaying. I don’t think you can say there is pure determinism with anything that can always be modulated by environment and conversely I don’t think you can say this only comes from the environment. That almost certainly is always modulated by the genes. So one of the opportunities that I think system biology presents in a really interesting way is this ability to dissect and come to understand the interplay of these two things and their relative contributions.

Leroy Hood, a leading scientist in molecular biotechnology and genomics, received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins Medical School (1964) and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Caltech (1968). In 1992, after more than 20 years as a faculty member at Caltech, where he and his colleagues revolutionized genomics by developing automated DNA sequencing, he relocated to the University of Washington to establish the cross-disciplinary Department of Molecular Biotechnology.

Dr. Hood is currently President of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle where he leads efforts to pioneer systems approaches to biology and medicine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received the Lasker Award for his studies on the mechanism of immune diversity.

Sharing an interest in the study of antibody diversity, Hood and Watson met in 1967 when Hood attended his first meeting at CSHL. Leroy has been working on the genome since the late 70’s. He went to the first official genome meeting in Santa Cruz in 1985 and has attended all of the subsequent meetings which have been held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.