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Remarks at the Press Conference Announcing Sequencing and Analysis of the Human Genome

Dr. Francis S. Collins
Director, National Human Genome Research Institute

February 12, 2001

Dr. Collins:

Good morning. Among the many distinguished people in the room, I'd like to recognize Senator Pete Domenici, the father of the genome project in the U.S. Congress, Jim Watson, the father of the genome project almost everywhere else, members of the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research, and Dr. Michael Morgan, the executive director of the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton, England. We're particularly pleased to be holding this press conference jointly with our colleagues at Celera Genomics.

Forty-eight years ago, Watson and Crick introduced DNA's elegant double helix to the world in the pages of Nature. With extravagant understatement, they began their letter to Nature by noting - and I quote - "This structure has novel features, which are of considerable biological interest." Today, we're here to offer further evidence of just how considerable.

Last June, we announced that researchers had collected 90 percent of the DNA letters that make up the text of the human genome sequence. Now we have achieved another major advance - by reading, from cover to cover, the first draft of this "Book of Life" and reporting on the stunning surprises we encountered along the way.

As you will hear today, this Book of Life is actually at least three books. It's a history book: a narrative of the journey of our species through time. It's a shop manual: an incredibly detailed blueprint for building every human cell. And it's a transformative textbook of medicine: with insights that will give health care providers immense new powers to treat, prevent and cure disease. We are delighted by what we've already seen in these books. But we are also profoundly humbled by the privilege of turning the pages that describe the miracle of human life, written in the mysterious language of all the ages, the language of God.

This announcement represents just the end of the beginning for the Human Genome Project. The end of the beginning got a slightly early start on Saturday night! The next phase will allow us to produce a finished sequence with extremely high accuracy, to sequence the genomes of the mouse and other species, to move swiftly from gene sequence to gene function, and to help convert this growing knowledge into treatments that can lengthen and enrich lives. And we will proceed just as we began - by making all of our data freely available, without restriction of any kind.

Today's achievements have drawn upon the talents of more than a thousand scientists around the world. Many of their leaders are here in this room, including Dr. Richard Gibbs and Dr. Trevor Hawkins. Here to represent this international team of scientists are Dr. Robert Waterston, the director of the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Dr. Eric Lander, the director of the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research.

Last updated: March 17, 2012