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Volume 9, Number 21Space holderMay 27, 2005

Collins and UW genome scientists meet the press

Making Seattle the first stop when the National Human Genome Research Institute took its Consumer Day on the road was a no-brainer, Francis Collins, the institute director, told reporters at a UW press conference May 20. He mentioned how cooperation between genome scientists and those in other disciplines is flourishing in the local environment. He added that Seattle is unmatched in applying computer sciences and technological tools to genomics. The UW, he said, also has led in the academic study and public discussion of ethical and legal issues arising from science.

Among Seattle's other contributions, he said, were efforts to understand, on a large scale, the biology of life, the basics of disease, and the social implications of research. Other areas noted were studies of genetic variation, participation in Project ENCODE to list how parts of the genome work, improvements in screening assays, continued sequencing of human DNA, helping draft a dozen mammalian genomes, and identifying disease genes, particularly in cancer.

Speaking with reporters, in addition to Collins, were UW faculty Maynard Olson, professor of medicine and genome sciences; Wylie Burke, professor and chair of medical history and ethics; Debbie Nickerson, professor of genome sciences; and Bob Waterston, professor and chair of genome sciences. They answered questions on personalized medicine, public fears, and political efforts to cut off acquisition of knowledge.

Collins said he feels as a physician that it would be unethical not to be working to heal disease and not to be trying to find better approaches to heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and other poorly understood or now untreatable disorders.

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