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Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 00:03 GMT
Code cracker to be knighted
Sulston PA
Dr Sulston is preparing the "rough draft" for publication
One of the driving forces behind the effort to decipher the human genome is to get a knighthood from the Queen.


I think the great majority of us would not want the benefits of human genome research to go exclusively to the wealthy

Dr John Sulston
Dr John Sulston led UK scientists in the international project that set out more than a decade ago to read the biochemical "code of life" hidden in nearly all our cells.

The announcement in June that a "rough draft" of the 3bn-letter-long code had been produced was one of the major news stories of 2000.

The achievement was hailed as one of the great scientific landmarks of all time. Commentators believe the work will revolutionise medicine by giving us new diagnostic tests, and drugs for previously untreatable diseases.

Patent law

Dr Sulston is honoured for "services to genome research". He was part of the team that produced the first DNA sequence of an animal - the small soil worm Caenorhabditis elegans - which was completed in 1998.

Graphic BBC
This research effort was finished at the Sanger Centre at Hinxton near Cambridge, which is also the base for the UK human genome initiative.

 Dr John Sulston announces the "rough draft" of the human genome

Dr Sulston, who said the knighthood reflected great credit on all his colleagues, is passionate in his belief that fundamental science should be done "out in the open".

He told BBC News Online: "I think the great majority of us would not want the benefits of human genome research to go exclusively to the wealthy. A very big step towards doing that is to try to keep as much of the fundamental information as we can beyond the reach of patent law."

Comparing genomes

The data collected during the production of the human "rough draft" are likely to be published jointly by the journals Nature and Science in the spring.

Sanger WT
The UK effort to sequence the human genome is based at the Sanger Centre
Work goes on to refine the DNA sequence and to search the code for the genes, the templates that cells use to make proteins. These are the large molecules that build and maintain the human body. This will take many more years of research and will be helped by the sequencing of genomes of other organisms.

"We shall learn about everything by comparing the genomes of all organisms, and that includes plants, humans, flies and worms," Dr Sulston said. "The big excitement now is bioinformatics and comparative genomics which requires a lot of computer work.

"We've got all the fundamental data but we don't understand it. But by comparing one genome with another and fiddling around with computers and then running into the lab and checking our ideas, we will get there."

See also:

30 Dec 00 | Science/Nature
26 Jun 00 | Science/Nature
30 May 00 | Human genome
10 Dec 98 | Science/Nature
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