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Sequencing the human genome in a bingo hall


The daring act of sequencing the human genome
Sydney Brenner Scientist
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Now of course there were lots of organisms that it would be interesting to know about, but which they were intractable or in some cases illegal to do genetic experiments. And of course that's why the genetics of man had gone so slowly, because we could only rely on certain markers and so on. But being able to approach that from the DNA just seemed to me to unify the whole of biology at one blow. And I think that when Wally Gilbert, or... it was Sinsheimer first suggested we should just sequence the whole  of the human genome, just like... genomes of whole organisms have been sequenced, but they were bacteriophages, they were 50,000 base pairs. And of course to jump from 50,000, from 104, to three billion, that is 3 x 109, that's a 105 jump. That's, that was some act, I wouldn't call it of imagination, it's certainly a daring act. And of course a lot of people got together to say, yes, this is something that we would want to do.

South African Sydney Brenner (1927-2019) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002. His joint discovery of messenger RNA, and, in more recent years, his development of gene cloning, sequencing and manipulation techniques along with his work for the Human Genome Project have led to his standing as a pioneer in the field of genetics and molecular biology.

Listeners: Lewis Wolpert

Lewis Wolpert is Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology of University College, London. His research interests are in the mechanisms involved in the development of the embryo. He was originally trained as a civil engineer in South Africa but changed to research in cell biology at King's College, London in 1955. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1980 and awarded the CBE in 1990. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999. He has presented science on both radio and TV and for five years was Chairman of the Committee for the Public Understanding of Science.



Listen to Lewis Wolpert at Web of Stories



Tags: Walter Gilbert

Duration: 1 minute, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: April-May 1994

Date story went live: 29 September 2010