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Human Genome Research: DOE Origins
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.
1 Edited excerpts from Origins of the Human Genome Project
2 Edited excerpts from Sequencing the Human Genome: Summary Report of the Santa Fe Workshop
3 Excerpt from Five-Year Plan Goes to Capitol Hill
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.
Chronology of Events in Division of and Medicine Programs; DOE Technical Report; 1964
Impact of Radiation Biology on Fundamental Insights in Biology; DOE Technical Report; July 1982
Health and Environmental Science: A Brief Review; DOE Technical Report; September 1982
Health and Environmental Research: Summary of Accomplishments. Volume 2; DOE Technical Report; August 1986
Report on the Human Genome Initiative for the Office of Health and Environmental Research; DOE Technical Report; April 1987
Mapping Our Genes: The Genome Projects: How Big, How Fast; DOE Technical Report; April 1988
Accomplishments of Long-Term Research and Development; DOE Technical Report; July 1988
Mapping and Sequencing the Human Genome; DOE Technical Report; 1988
Understanding our Genetic Inheritance: The U.S. Human Genome Project, The First Five Years FY 1991--1995; DOE Technical Report; April 1990
Additional Web pages:
DOE Centers Formed to Study the Human Genome, DOENEWS, September 9, 1987
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