The Race to Sequence the Human Genome with Dr. David Smith

The Race to Sequence the Human Genome with Dr. David Smith


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This is a story of scientists pushed by the media and public into the unknown. In their success, they do not find the answers everyone expected, rather a new frontier of scientific discovery. This conversation will explore the international, collaborative research program whose aim was to understand and map out all of human beings’ genes. All our genes together are known as our "genome."

Almost exactly one century after the publication of On the Origin of Species, came the next fundamental idea in biology: the central dogma. In 1958, DNA was proclaimed to be the complete instruction manual of a cell. Across the globe, scientists were obsessed with cracking the code of life. In this pursuit, and after many Nobel Prizes, an international initiative was created to decode the human genome. In 1990, the Human Genome Project was officially launched.

A decade passed, and the government-sponsored effort to solve a 3 billion piece puzzle was not yet complete. As a separate interest, a private company gambled against the initiative to complete the human genome themselves. Ultimately, the two rivals joined forces to complete the project, and then marvel at the confusing, disappointing, and awesome accomplishment that is the human genome.

This seminar will cover the people, technology, and politics that led to the completion of the human genome. But, for all the mystery, disease, and complexity of life, there were no new answers. The genome is more like a dictionary than an instruction manual, and as science learned the cell’s language, the instruction manual became decipherable. We will use real data to explore the architecture and language of the genome and finally see how answers were found. We will also discuss how this project is a cautionary tale within the science community and how our efforts to decode life has since evolved.

Led by Dr. David Smith, an expert with a PhD in biochemistry, this interactive seminar will explore the race to sequence the human genome. Designed to inform as well as educate, participants will emerge with a greater understanding of this complex period and its scientific context.

Dr. David Gregory Smith has a PhD in biochemistry. He is an active and contributing researcher in the field of genomics. Currently, he is using sequencing technologies to understand the mechanisms of liver regeneration.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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