David Haussler on Human Genome Project: Funding Problems
  David Haussler     Biography    
Recorded: 08 May 2012

Because we weren’t brought on to do the assembly, there was no funding. In fact, because we were brought on at the last minute we had no funding from the federal government at all to work on the genome project.

Interestingly enough, I had to go to the Chancellor to ask for computing equipment for this project. So I, I went to the Chancellor, Marcie Greenwood, who was President of the ASS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and really understood the gravity of the situation and the importance of the Human Genome, I also went to my Dean, Pat Mantey, the Dean of Engineering and I asked each of them to contribute equipment we came up with a scheme in which computer equipment that was destined for instructional purposes was purchased early and used as a computer cluster and then that cluster was to be broken down into individual machines and so we built a cluster of a hundred desktop computers and used that to assemble the first assembly of the human genome and it was completely seat-of-the-pants pasted together and amazingly enough, actually funded, self-funded because of the Chancellor and the Dean at that, at that point. I, I mean it’s really remarkable, there aren’t many universities where a professor can get the ear of the Chancellor and say ‘Get me a quarter of a million dollar advance to do this because there’s no time to actually get a federal grant.’

Marcie Greenwood and Pat Mantey were exceptional individuals and they were in an exceptional environment at Santa Cruz, where really the whole university operates as one big family in many ways, we - there’s incredible cross-discipline work and cooperation at all levels, both administrative and with the faculty. So, it’s an amazing institution, I don’t think it would have happened anywhere else.

David Haussler (born 1953) is an American bioinformatician known for his work leading the team that assembled the first human genome sequence in the race to complete the Human Genome Project and subsequently for comparative genome analysis that deepens understanding the molecular function and evolution of the genome. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, professor of biomolecular engineering and director of the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, director of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) on the UC Santa Cruz campus, and a consulting professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and UC San Francisco Biopharmaceutical Sciences Department.