Statement of Secretary Spencer Abraham
Bethesda, MD, April 14, 2003
I am very proud of the Department of Energy’s historic role in the sequencing
of the human genome – and very excited by the promise of DOE’s
Genomes to Life initiative.
In 1986, a DOE scientist, Dr. Charles DeLisi, proposed that DOE should attempt
to decode the tens, even hundreds of thousands of genes then thought to be
in the human genome, in order to understand, at the DNA level, the effects
of radiation, energy use and energy-production technologies on human health.
And so the Department of Energy became the very first agency to fund research
into genome mapping and sequencing.
But DOE’s Office of Science did more than launch the historic quest to
discover the genetic blueprint of human beings. DOE also developed cost-effective
sequencing and computational technologies and methods that made possible the
unraveling of the human genetic code.
In addition, by bringing together the research capabilities of three of our
national laboratories – Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore and Los
Alamos – DOE founded the Joint Genome Institute, one of the world’s
largest and most productive public genome sequencing centers.
Indeed, DOE’s Joint Genome Institute completed the sequencing of three
of the human genome’s chromosomes – numbers five, 16 and 19 – which
together contain some 12,000 genes, including those implicated in forms of
kidney disease, prostate and colorectal cancer, leukemia, hypertension, diabetes
Now, DOE once again is pioneering discovery-class science. For the same biotechnology
revolution that offers such promise for human health is also a powerful tool
for clean energy and a cleaner environment.
DOE’s Genomes to Life program is developing new knowledge about how microorganisms
grow and function and will marry this to a national infrastructure in computational
biology to build a fundamental understanding of living systems.
The thrust of Genomes to Life is aimed directly at DOE concerns:
- developing new sources of energy;
- mitigating the long-term impacts of climate change through carbon
- cleaning up the environment.
DOE’s Genomes to Life research stands on the shoulders of discoveries
made precisely because DOE was willing to take the risk and begin a program
in gene sequencing some 17 years ago. We are very proud of that tradition and
of that legacy.
Congratulations to all those who have helped in this historic effort.