Recorded: 18 Aug 2003
Well, certainly with my time in government the human genome project, without a close second. A lot of other things went well too. I think we made enormous number of small and larger decisions that moved the AIDS project along. But the AIDS project was not optional. This was optional. And I think that in terms of the AIDS project, it was such a horrendous condition and threat, that Congress gave us every penny we asked for without much question. All they said is you better be able to justify this next year. They didn’t force any money on us on the genome project. That was all money that we asked for in spite of the fact that I was never permitted really to ask for that money. When the chairman asked me for a budget 100 million dollar increments, that budget was essentially my initiative. It did have to go through OMB and the White House. They did not delete anything. By that time I knew pretty much what the limits of the boundaries were, and we didn’t ask for things that weren’t reasonable. But this was an initiative they could have blocked and they did not.
James B. Wyngaarden is a medical doctor, biochemist and medical science advisor. He served as director of the National Institutes of Health, associate director for Life Sciences in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, and as director of the Human Genome Organization. Wyngaarden is currently part of the Washington Advisory Group, LLC and director of four biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies. Wyngaarden is also co-author of the textbook The Metabolic Basis of Inherited Disease.
He researches the regulation of purine biosynthesis, the production of uric acid and he helped initiate the use of allopurinol, a drug developed as an anticancer agent and now used as a treatment for gout.
While serving as director of the National Institutes of Heath, he enlisted the help of Dr. Watson in 1988 to begin the Human Genome Project. Jim obliged and joined the NIH as the associate director for Human Genome Research, while still acting as director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.