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How diplomacy helped to end the race to sequence the human genome

Bill Clinton wanted biotech entrepreneur Craig Venter (left) and Francis Collins (centre) of the US National Institutes of Health to patch up their differences.
Bill Clinton wanted biotech entrepreneur Craig Venter (left) and Francis Collins (centre) of the US National Institutes of Health to patch up their differences.Credit: Ron Sachs/Shutterstock
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Excerpt: Twenty years ago, the twentieth century’s last great scientific contest ended in a tie, aided by some deft statecraft from the White House.

Nature, Published online: 24 June 2020

On 26 June 2000, US President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair presided over a carefully choreographed piece of scientific theatre. Through a video link connecting Washington DC and London, they announced to the world that scientists had completed a rough first draft of the human genome sequence.

It was quite a production. Amid accompanying music and applause from scientists, diplomats, and members of Clinton’s cabinet, the president entered the White House East Room. He was flanked by the two leaders of competing teams on the sequencing effort: Francis Collins, then-director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, and Craig Venter, founder of Celera Genomics, a company formed to commercialize genome data.

It was not a day for understatements, as the reporter covering the event for Nature wrote. One participant, Mike Dexter, then-director of the Wellcome Trust, described its significance as surpassing that of the invention of the wheel. Clinton himself said: “Today’s announcement represents more than just an epoch-making triumph of science and reason … With this profound new knowledge, humankind is on the verge of gaining immense, new power to heal.”

Exactly 20 years on from that event, the ground-breaking significance of determining the human genome sequence is clear: it sparked a revolution in human biology and medicine, and genome sequencing is now routine

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chroniclesofcarlos

chroniclesofcarlos

Are Bigfoot real? Yes, they are! I investigate, create, and share mainstream educational content, Bigfoot and related phenomena, and the scientific methods and principles that corroborate our stories. I have lived and traveled all over North America, Europe, and Africa, have had encounters with Bigfoot and UFOs in North America, and have even had an NDE in Africa. Education: BA and MA in Biological Anthropology Languages: English and Spanish Career: Certified Coach and Teacher, Licensed Entrepreneur Passions: coaching, mentoring, learning, teaching, coaching; the sciences, and cryptozoology Subjects: The Sciences, Cryptozoology

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Are Bigfoot real? Yes, they are!

I investigate, create, and share mainstream educational content, Bigfoot encounters and other mysteries, mythologies, and legends of the unknown, and the scientific methods and principles that corroborate our stories.

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