NHGRI Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Human Genome Project Completion
By Raymond MacDougall
Associate Director of Communications, Division of Intramural Research
Ten years after completion of the Human Genome Project (HGP), researchers from around the world are still making countless discoveries about the human genome, but much more remains to be learned about life's operating system in order for genomics to be used productively to improve human health.
The National Human Genome Research Institute, which spearheaded the HGP, plans a series of stimulating seminars, a symposium, and an interactive exhibition to mark the 10-year anniversary of the project's completion and to reflect on the HGP's revolutionary influence on biomedicine.
"The Human Genome Project has had a remarkable impact on science over the past decade," said NHGRI director Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D. "I am pleased that NHGRI has put together a varied set of events to showcase the many ways that genomics is now advancing biomedical research."
The celebration kicks off with a seminar series that starts this month, followed by a day-long symposium in April and the opening of an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in June.
Six prominent biomedical researchers, including one Nobel laureate, will participate in a commemorative seminar series. In three, two-hour seminars - scheduled in February, March and May - pairs of speakers will focus on a key theme in genomics at the NIH Clinical Center's Lipsett Amphitheater in Bldg. 10.
The first set of paired lectures, Conceptualization of the Human Genome Project and Development of Data Release Principles, features Dr. Robert Waterston and Nobel laureate Sir John Sulston. It will take place on Feb. 14 from 9 to 11 a.m.
Dr. Waterston is professor and chair of the department of genome sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Sulston is chair of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. The two collaborated during the HGP on sequencing both the genome of the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, and the human genome. The worm genome sequence, published in 1998, was the first sequenced animal genome; the project demonstrated the feasibility of moving on to sequencing the human genome.The second set of paired lectures, Genomic Data Privacy and Risk, will be held on March 21 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. One speaker will be Dr. Isaac Kohane, chair of the informatics program at Boston Children's Hospital. He is a pediatrician and a genetic epidemiologist who has implemented computer-based biomedical decision-support systems and has developed systems to protect the privacy of health information and automated personal health records. He will be joined by Dr. George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. For many years, Dr. Church has developed and advanced methods for sequencing genomes. He is also a leading voice in discussions about research interests and the privacy and protection of genomic information. He directs the Personal Genome Project, a study that is sequencing the genomes of thousands of volunteers and exploring the privacy risks for participants.
The final set of paired lectures, Translating Pharmacogenetics Research to Practice: The Case Example of Smoking Cessation, is scheduled for May 6 from 9 to 11 a.m. The two speakers will be Dr. Caryn Lerman, professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, and Dr. Alexandra Shields, associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and director, Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities.
Dr. Lerman studies the genetics of nicotine's stimulant effect. Dr. Shields is a health policy expert who focuses on the challenges of clinical integration of genomics into clinical practice, particularly the impact of these challenges on minority and underserved populations. Both speakers will address the problems of nicotine addiction and the role that the drug plays in how individuals meet the challenge to stop smoking.
A commemorative all-day symposium, planned for April 25 in Kirschstein Auditorium, Natcher Conference Center, will feature a group of speakers. The event, The Genomics Landscape a Decade after the Human Genome Project, will look at the accomplishments of the decade with an eye to what is on the horizon. The date of the symposium is significant, occurring in the month that the HGP was announced 10 years ago, and coinciding with the date 60 years ago when James Watson and Francis Crick's article describing DNA's double-helical structure was published. This year's symposium is timed with both historic achievements in mind.
National DNA Day Student Observation
Select area high school students will learn about a number of prominent areas of genomics during a day spent with NHGRI experts and staff of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The National DNA Day event, planned for April 19, will include museum tours, hands-on activities, a scavenger hunt and an IMAX film.
"We are planning activities for DNA Day that will instill in these teens a sense of wonder and interest in the field of genomics," said Dr. Carla Easter, deputy director of NHGRI's Education and Community Involvement Branch.
In mid-June, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in collaboration with NHGRI will unveil a high-tech, high-intensity exhibition that celebrates the 10th anniversary the HGP's completion. The exhibition will be organized around several themes including the genome and you, the natural world, and health and humanity. It will provide visitors with new ways to look at themselves as individuals, as members of a family, and as a species that is part of the diversity of life on the planet.
Visitors will also discover how scientists use genomics to establish links between genes and specific diseases and traits as well as the latest advances in genomic medicine, prenatal testing and genomically guided drug therapy. The exhibition will attempt to dispel common misconceptions about genetics and genomics, and challenge visitors to think more deeply about the complex ethical, legal, social and environmental issues raised by genomic advances.
"The completed sequence of the human genome gave us the first glimpse of the massive instruction book that orchestrates all the complexities of human biology," said Green. "We want to help the public see how the Human Genome Project has and will continue to expand our knowledge of the human body in health and disease and in the biodiversity of the natural world."
More information about these 10th anniversary celebrations, including the seminar series starting this month, can be found at http://www.genome.gov/HGP10.
Posted: February 6, 2013