John Sulston was director of the Sanger Centre in Cambridge from 1993 to 2000. There he led the British arm of the international team selected to map the entire human DNA sequence, a feat that was pulled off in record time by an extraordinary collaboration of scientists. Despite innumerable setbacks and challenges from outside competitors, the ultimate success of the project can be attributed in large part to John Sulston's own determination, passion and scientific excellence. In this personal account he takes us behind the scenes of one of the largest international scientific operations ever undertaken. He reveals the politics, controversy, ethics, personalities, setbacks and accomplishments that shaped the seven years of research. He is frank about the competition with Craig Venter and Celera Genomics, which threatened to undermine the international community's attempts to make the sequence freely available to everyone. He shares with us his excitement as the project unfolded. And as a pragmatist he reveals his hopes and concerns as to how the information unlocked by the Human Genome Project will affect people's lives in the future. This is at once a compelling history of this most exciting of scientific breakthroughs and also an impassioned call for ethical responsibility in scientific research. As the boundaries between science and big business increasingly blur, and researchers race to patent medical discoveries, the international community needs to find a common protocol for the protection of the wider human interest. The quest for profits must not be allowed to restrict research or unreasonably limit access to treatment. Sulston tells a story of our shared human heritage, offering hope for future research and a fresh outlook on our scientific understanding of ourselves.
Publisher and industry reviews
UK Kirkus review
This is a very personal and detailed account of the scientific work and political battles that led to the publication of the map of the human genome in 2001 by the major UK scientist on the project. It's an easy to read and fascinating insight into the competitive nature of publically funded science research. The human genome map is a comprehensive map of every gene on each of the 22 pairs of human chromosomes, sequenced in the correct order including all the redundant information - or junk DNA - along the route. Vital for so many areas of medical research and the advancement of science in general, it seems unthinkable that this knowledge should not automatically belong in the public domain. Yet John Sulston and his colleagues at the Sanger Centre in Cambridge found themselves in a race to publish sequences in public databases before a rival project funded by wholly profit-oriented business could claim and patent important chunks of information to sell on later. As a story of how Sulston's work took him from worm genetics to the whole human genome project this book offers readers unusual insight into the continual battles to get funding for scientific research in general. The worldwide political struggles to coordinate the sequencing projects in different labs, in some cases limiting them for the goal of beating the American profit-led team, are eye-opening to anyone who thinks scientists spend their lives sitting at benches in white coats shaking test tubes. The pace of the narrative is sometimes lost in the sea of acronyms and names of people and organizations and the minute detail of meetings and discussions, but this is an astonishing story of one of the most important pieces of scientific work ever. (Kirkus UK)
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