Eric Lander on Personal Future Goals in Genomic Research
  Eric Lander     Biography    
Recorded: 02 Jun 2003

Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean I look-my dreams are to still put together that comprehensive picture that makes it trivial to take a new disease and see instantly what's going on with it. We're not there yet. I talked today about diabetes and about ways to, you know, to use genomic resources for that. It's still too hard, it's still too chancy. It's still, you know, not certain enough that it works. But I can see how we're going to get there. It's not that far now to the point-the test is [that] we should have a complete accounting of the basis of all complex disease; the diabetes and the heart disease and the hypertension. The sequencing in the genome project was not the goal, for me it was never the goal. I got involved [and] I came to the '86 meeting and gave a talk about ways to map complex traits, to dissect complex disease. For me the sequencing of the human genome project has been a fascinating digression for fifteen years because it was an essential first step to mapping human disease. I feel like, all right, it was a good fifteen-year digression. Now we better pick up that thread and finish it. We better get to the point where with every human disease it's easy to describe what's going on, on a molecular level. And some people say, well, you know you're never going to do that. It's going to take a century. I don't believe that. I just don't believe that.

I think it's like infectious disease or something. There are causes. There's an infectious agent, you can find it and it becomes a somewhat routine sort of thing. I think we will have reasonably good accountings for most of the complex diseases within a decade. That's the point-that's the dream I had going into it as a kid in '86. That's the point where I can stop and say, all right, I'm done. I can, not that I want to solve everything myself. But I want us to get to the point where one bright M.D./Ph.D. can just nail bases of disease on his or her own.

Eric Lander earned his A.B. in mathematics from Princeton University (1978) and D.Phil. in mathematics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University (1981).

He first came to the Whitehead Institute as a Whitehead Fellow in 1986, while still an assistant professor of managerial economics at the Harvard Business School and is currently Director of the Whitehead Center for Genome Research and Professor of Biology at MIT. As director of the Whitehead Center for Genome Research, Dr Lander has been one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, contributing 30 percent of the total sequence of the human genome and developing and making freely available many of the key tools used in modern mammalian genomics.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and has been awarded the Beckman Prize for Lab Automation, the Chiron Prize for Biotechnology, and the Gairdner Award for his outstanding contribution to genomic research.

Lander has attended every human genome meeting at CSHL. At the request of Jim Watson, Lander gave his first lecture at the 1986 CSHL symposium on the Molecular Biology of Homo Sapiens.