Human Genome Research: DOE Origins

Resources with Additional Information

Charles DeLisi
 Charles DeLisi

The genesis of the Department of Energy (DOE) human genome project took place when "Charles DeLisi … conceived of a concerted effort to sequence the human genome under the aegis of the … DOE. … In 1985, DeLisi took the reins of DOE's Office of Health and Environmental Research [OHER], the program that supported most Biology in the Department. The origins of DOE's biology program traced to the Manhattan Project, the World War II program that produced the first atomic bombs, and concern about how radiation caused genetic damage.

In the fall of 1985, DeLisi was reading a draft government report on technologies to detect inherited mutations, a nagging problem in the study of children to those exposed to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, when he came up with the idea of a concerted program to sequence the human genome*. DeLisi was positioned to translate his idea into money and staff. While his was the third public airing of the idea, it was DeLisi's conception and his station in government science administration that launched the genome project."1

Sequencing the human genome was the topic of the Santa Fe Workshop held March 3-4, 1986. The Santa Fe genome workshop was sponsored by OHER "and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) … . [It was] attended by 43 participants from the United States and Europe, of whom 18 were from DOE Laboratories and the remainder from academia and the private sector. … Dr. DeLisi requested that the participants evaluate the feasibility and potential utility of obtaining the complete sequence of the human genome, and [that they] identify those initial steps which might be logically taken in effective pursuit of such a goal."2

In May 1986, Dr. DeLisi send a related memo to Alvin W. Trivelpiece, Director of the Office of Energy Research. In this memo, DeLisi outlined the conclusions of the Santa Fe Workshop and provided a summary approach to a human genome project.

In 1990, the Human Genome Project (HGP) formally began when a "5-year plan (FY 1991-1995) detailing the goals of the U.S. Human Genome Project was presented to members of congressional appropriations committees in mid-February." 3

* DeLisi, C. (1988). The Human Genome Project. American Scientist 76:488-493.

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Resources with Additional Information

Additional information on the Human Genome Project and the Department's Human Genome Program is available in full-text DOE reports and on the Web.

Documents:

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Additional Web pages:

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