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Breaking News

Scientists Complete Working Draft of the Human Genome

Aired June 26, 2000 - 12:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Let me interrupt for a second. We're going to go to a genome event here in Washington. Let's listen.

(INTERRUPTED FOR BREAKING NEWS)

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CRAIG VENTER, CELERA GENOMICS: And as I said earlier, I'm delighted that Francis Collins made such a tremendous effort to help build good cooperation in this community. And I thank in particular Ari Patrinos, who was sort of the master of ceremonies for getting us together, leading to this cooperation.

So today, Celera is announcing that it has sequenced 99 percent of the human genome. We have 3.12 billion letters of genetic code that have been assembled using our unique algorithms developed by the scientific team here.

I'll be making various introductions later on, but this is a historic moment, I think, for private industry, that the risk of capital at a time when the strategy we had was deemed to be too risky for other types of funding.

I want to introduce to you, particularly acknowledge Tony White, who's the chairman and CEO of PE Corporation. Tony, if you'd stand up. If Tony White had not been willing along with Mike Hunkapiller of PE Biosystems to take a risk of investment to form Celera I certainly would not be standing here today. And the tremendous equipment that Mike Hunkapiller's team produced are clearly responsible for both teams being at the point they are today. And so this is clearly a triumph for both public funding and private funding that had both had not happened the human genome would still be a very long way off.

We described in our press release -- and I'll be talking about it more in a few minutes -- about some new cloning methods that our team developed to get to this point even faster, and they're exciting developments in science. We'd like to say that we have members of the pharmaceutical and biotech industry here that are using...

(AUDIO GAP)

... since September when we started this process, and have made some pretty exciting discoveries that I think will be driving science and medicine as we go forward.

But this is a historic occasion in terms of this interim phase that we're all at. Until the genomes are annotated and completely analyzed, which I've said earlier would take close, most of this century, that having the genetic code is actually not a very important moment other than it's the beginning of what we can do with it. And I think as the genetic code gets really put together and is distributed broadly through both the Internet and through our subscriber systems and through GenBank that over the years all of us will begin to really have the benefit of this work come together.

So I will join you again in about 15 minutes -- Francis.

FRANCIS COLLINS, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Well, I'd like to add my welcome also to all of you who are here at this historic press conference and particularly to express my gratitude to Ari Patrinos for the important role he's played in helping to organize this coordinated announcement today and also serving as our emcee.

I don't think we should go any further today without reintroducing at least one person who's in the room whose contribution to the very idea of the genome project made it happen back there some years ago and who continues to play an enormously important role in urging this effort forward with all due speed.

So can I ask Jim Watson to maybe stand up and be recognized?

(APPLAUSE)

So we are here, Craig and I, for three reasons: first, to celebrate an important milestone achieved by two groups using different but complementary strategies; second, to demonstrate in a very concrete way the spirit of cooperation, coordination and collegiality that we both believe should characterize an effort of this monumental importance; and thirdly, to underline the importance of the work that still lies ahead.

Since neither version of the genome sequence that we present today can be considered finished, there's a lot of work yet to be done, and obviously we're all anxious to get on to that.

I would say we are not here this afternoon to talk about the race to decode the human genome, though much has been written about that, as you all know. The only race that we're interested in today, I think, in discussing is the human race, and we want them to be the winners.

I will, in a couple of minutes, introduce the folks from the public sequencing consortium who are here, and when we get to the Q&As they'll come up to the table.

But right now, I would just like to say one more time thank you to Craig Venter for his willingness to consider the opportunities that lay ahead of us that we both realized a month ago of being able to coordinate this effort to make this announcement, of working towards the possibility of simultaneous publication of the data, and also looking towards the opportunity to compare these two data sets sometime after the publication to see what we can learn from what are truly interestingly complementary scientific strategies.

So thank you very much, Craig, for your willingness to do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: We've been listening to the participants of the Human Genome Project. Earlier today, it was announced about 99 percent of the human blueprint has now been mapped and that there's much more work to be done, but a very exciting day today in genetics.

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