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DOE and Human Genome Research


DOE and Human Genome Research

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has historically played a leading role in supporting human genome research.  March 2014 is the anniversary of the 1986 Santa Fe Workshop, which brought together participants from government, academia, and the private sector to explore the possibility of sequencing the human genome.  This workshop was sponsored by DOE and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  The Human Genome Project (HGP) was formalized in mid-February 1990.

In honor of the anniversary of the Santa Fe Workshop, DOE R&D Accomplishments has published a new feature page, Human Genome Research: DOE Origins.  This page describes the key role played by Charles DeLisi, then Associate Director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Health and Environmental Research (OHER) in conceiving the idea for a program to sequence the human genome.  The Santa Fe Workshop met DeLisi’s goal of laying out an approach to sequence the human genome. 

This new feature page complements a previously published DOE R&D Accomplishments feature page, Human Genome Research: Decoding DNA.  By April 2000, DOE researchers had decoded in draft form the genetic information on human chromosomes 5, 16, and 19, or an estimated 11 percent of the total human genome.  In June of that year, a ‘working draft’ that included a road map to an estimated 90% of the genes on every chromosome was announced. 

Each of these feature pages also include associated information resources, including links to full-text DOE technical reports and additional web sites relating to the Human Genome initiative.

Related Topics: Charles DeLisi, DNA, DOE Research & Development (R&D) Accomplishments, genomics, Human Genome Project, Santa Fe Workshop, sequencing


DOE Research Clearing the Way for Medical Solutions

by Sam Rosenbloom 01 Oct, 2013 in Technology

The Randolph-Sheppard Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1936. The act established a priority for blind vendors on Federal property.  Nearly 77 years later, walking toward the snack stand operated by a blind vendor, the irony always occurs to me as I read an unusual brass plaque on the hallway that commemorates the origin of the Human Genome Project and its champion, Dr. Charles DeLisi. The irony is that Rick, the blind vendor who could one day benefit from that project, cannot see the plaque. 

It takes individuals with an almost futuristic vision, able to counter criticism by those with less foresight, to take leaps of faith to establish such a far-reaching effort such as the Human Genome Project. Dr. DeLisi was apparently such a person. 

Dr. DeLisi, then Director of the Office of Health and Environmental Research at the Department of Energy, recognized the available technology and came up with the idea to sequence the human genome in 1985.  He formally funded the program in 1987.  With the involvement of the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, Congress eventually approved longer-term budgets that included the National Institutes of Health.   It is often the role of government to pursue long-term research, spanning decades, where the prospect of dividends are high risk and often times diffused throughout society.  Good examples of government foresight are the development of the Internet by the Department of Defense and communications technology developed by NASA. These technologies are imbedded in our very lifestyle … so much so that our quality of life could not be imagined without them.  The results are in every smart phone. Yet to a single generation of our predecessors...

Related Topics: Human Genome Project, medicine, Randolph-Sheppard Act