The Promise of Genomics

HudsonAlpha’s pedigree in genomic research reaches back to the inception of the Human Genome Project.

In December 1986, a technique for detecting genetic mutations developed by HudsonAlpha Institute President and Science Director Rick Myers—then a postdoc at Harvard—earned him a spot at a small scientific meeting in Alta, Utah. The meeting was organized by the Department of Energy to determine if new methods for detecting genetic mutations could detect an increase in mutations among survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. The 19 people in attendance, among them Myers, determined that the answer was “no,” unless an enormous, complex, and expensive program to map the entire human genome was undertaken. In a burst of creativity and cooperation, the Human Genome Project took flight.

In 1990, when the Human Genome Project began in earnest, Myers’ lab at the University of California at San Francisco was the first of four centers to receive funding to map and sequence the genome. As the Director of the Stanford Human Genome Center, he oversaw the sequencing of chromosomes 5, 16, and 19—which accounted for 11% of the total sequence. In addition, his center was responsible for performing a rigorous, independent quality control analysis of the remaining 90% of the sequence.

This momentum of intellectual curiosity and trajectory of innovation and discovery continues today at HudsonAlpha, where Myers mentors 15 faculty members and more than 100 other scientists who combine their foundational genomic knowledge with cutting edge technology to understand humans and other organisms at an unprecedented and unimagined level of detail. The study of our own biology—not just diseases, but how human beings work as organisms and how we fit into and are affected by our environment—becomes ever more important as the world globalizes and becomes more interdependent. Our work in agriscience is building a scientific basis of knowledge, and leveraging that new discovery to feed and fuel the world. Through genomic medicine, patients are being diagnosed and new diseases – and treatments- identified. Our unparalleled educational outreach program reaches more than 1.5 million people each year and is growing the next generation of scientists, while creating a genomics-literate society.

Today, HudsonAlpha is one of the top genomic sequencing centers in the nation. We work with hundreds of academic collaborators around the globe… and in space on the International Space Station. The data being generated and analyzed today holds the promise of a healthier tomorrow.