News Focus

Unsung Heroes

Science  16 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5507, pp. 1207
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5507.1207b
UNSUNG HERO:MIKE HUNKAPILLARCREDIT: WILLIAM MERCER MCLEOD

Mike Hunkapillar and his team at Applied Biosystems Inc. put the first automated sequencing machine on the market in the mid-1980s. In the late 1990s, Hunkapillar's group at PE Biosystems developed the lightning-speed PE Prism 3700 machine, which was used for all of Celera's sequencing and much of the public project's.

UNSUNG HERO:LAUREN LINTONCREDIT: ERIC GREEN/WHITEHEAD/MIT GENOME CENTER

Lauren Linton, a former biotech manager, swept into a sluggish Whitehead/MIT Genome Center in 1999 promising to boost productivity 10-fold. Instead, Whitehead rocketed it up 20-fold, becoming the top sequencer in the public consortium. Linton has now left to start her own company.

UNSUNG HERO:PHIL GREENCREDIT: HHMI

Phil Green, a mathematician and software designer, wrote the phred and phrap programs at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. These became essential tools for evaluating the quality of raw DNA sequence and linking up assemblies. He's now at the University of Washington, Seattle, creating new programs.

UNSUNG HEROES:MEL SIMON & PIETER DE JONGCREDITS: CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY AND SUSAN SPANN PHOTOGRAPHY

Although they were slow to win acceptance, the bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) created by geneticist Simon (left) of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena soon became the “currency of the genome,” as he says. These clones' large capacity and stability make them highly efficient. Using BACs, Caltech's de Jong created massive “libraries” of DNA from various human tissues for sequencing.

UNSUNG HERO:MARK ADAMSCREDIT: CELERA

Ever since he teamed up with J. Craig Venter at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1990, Adams has been one of the country's top sequencing gurus. After developing expressed sequence tags with Venter at NIH, Adams followed him to The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, Maryland, and then to Celera, also in Rockville, where he is refining methods for whole-genome shotgun sequencing.

UNSUNG HERO:JIM KENTCREDIT: DON HARRIS/UC SANTA CRUZ

Jim Kent, a bioinformatics graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, wrote a program in just 4 weeks that pieced together the rough draft of the human genome for the public consortium—producing an assembly called the “golden path.”

UNSUNG HERO:ELBERT BRANSCOMBCREDIT: JOINT GENOME INSTITUTE

A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) physicist, Branscomb got swept up in the genome program and became a bioinformaticist overnight, helping with genome mapping and later nudging DOE sequencing into high gear as director of the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California.

UNSUNG HEROES:NORM DOVICHI & HIDEKI KAMBARACREDIT: MARY LEVIN/UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

An ocean apart, Dovichi at the University of Alberta in Canada and Kambara at the Hitachi Co. in Tokyo independently hit upon a sequencing technology that greatly advanced the human genome project. The method, used in today's high-speed machines, uses laser beams to scan DNA being pumped through numerous capillary tubes, simultaneously identifying the bases by color-coded chemical tags.

UNSUNG HEROES:PETER LI & RICHARD MURALCREDIT: BILLY COBLE/CELERA GENOMICS

Bioinformaticist Li came to Celera from the publicly funded Genome Data Base organization at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore to lead the chromosome team with Mural, a co-author of gene-finding software called GRAIL. Their team validates DNA assemblies and locates them on chromosomes.

UNSUNG HERO:ALAN COULSONCREDIT: MRC

After developing sequencing technology with Fred Sanger and producing physical maps of Caenorhabditis elegans, Coulson headed up the sequencing effort with John Sulston at the Sanger Centre in Hinxton, U.K. As Sanger scaled up to tackle the human genome, Coulson “quietly rolled up his sleeves,” says Sulston, to run the team that produced and selected clones for sequencing.

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