Promise of Genomics

Though a young institute, HudsonAlpha’s pedigree in genomic research reaches back to the very inception of the Human Genome Project.

In December 1986, a technique for detecting genetic mutations developed by HudsonAlpha Institute President and Science Director Rick Myers—then a postdoc at Harvard—earned him a spot at a small scientific meeting in Alta, Utah. The meeting was organized by the Department of Energy to determine if new methods for detecting genetic mutations could detect an increase in mutations among survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. The 19 people in attendance, among them Myers, determined that the answer was “no,” unless an enormous, complex, and expensive program to map the entire human genome was undertaken. In a burst of creativity and cooperation, the idea that was to become the Human Genome Project took flight.

In 1990, when the Human Genome Project began in earnest, Myers’ lab at the University of California at San Francisco was the first of four centers to receive funding to map and sequence the genome. As the Director of the Stanford Human Genome Center, he oversaw the sequencing of chromosomes 5, 16, and 19—which accounted for 11% of the total sequence. In addition, his center was responsible for performing a rigorous, independent quality control analysis of the remaining 90% of the sequence.

This momentum of intellectual curiosity and trajectory of innovation and discovery continues today at HudsonAlpha, where Myers mentors faculty and other scientists who combine their foundational genomic knowledge with cutting edge technology to understand humans and other organisms at an unprecedented and unimagined level of detail. The study of our own biology—not just diseases, but how human beings work as organisms and how we fit into and are affected by our environment—becomes ever more important as the world globalizes and becomes more interdependent.