Record Unit 9549, DNA Sequencing Interviews, 1989-1990
DNA is composed of the four individual nucleotides: adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G). To decipher a particular piece of DNA, it is necessary to determine the exact sequence of these nucleotides. The sequence of the nucleotides determines the genetic information encoded in a DNA strand. A partial nucleotide sequence for a human gene might look like: GGCACTGACTCTCTC. In 1977, biochemist Fred Sanger developed the enzymatic chain termination procedure that allowed for sequencing of individual strands of DNA. This made mapping and sequencing of genetic material possible.
In 1986, Leroy E. Hood's Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) announced its development of a semiautomated machine for sequencing DNA. The machine automated the enzymatic chain termination procedure for DNA sequence analysis developed by Sanger and became a key instrument in mapping and sequencing genetic material. That same year, Applied Biosystems, Inc. (ABI) produced the first commercial instruments for clinical use. Constant improvements in the technology resulted in faster sequencing capacity, which was significant for advanced scientific research in projects such as mapping the human genome.
Leroy E. Hood received his M.D. from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1964, and a Ph.D. in immunology from Cal Tech in 1968. From 1968 until 1970 he held a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. In 1970 he was appointed professor of biology at Cal Tech and eventually became chairman of the Division of Biology and the director of its cancer center.
Michael Hunkapiller received a Ph.D. in chemistry from Cal Tech in 1974. He joined ABI as its vice president for research and development in 1983.
Robert J. Kaiser received his Ph.D in chemistry from Cal Tech in 1983, and subsequently joined the Cal Tech staff as a research fellow in biology. Jane Z. Sanders joined the Cal Tech staff in 1984 as an associate biologist and was appointed senior biologist a year later. She took graduate courses in biochemistry in 1971-72 at the Stanford University Medical School.
Lloyd M. Smith received a Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University in 1981, and was a senior research fellow in biology at Cal Tech from 1982 until 1987, when he was appointed assistant professor in the Analytical Division of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
J. Craig Venter received his Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from the University of California, San Diego in 1975. In 1983 he was appointed adjunct professor of biochemical pharmacology at the State University of New York-Buffalo and joined NIH in 1984 as chief of the Receptor Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Section, NINDS. In 1987 he also became co-director of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, NINDS, NIH and was appointed director of the NINDS DNA facility at NIH.
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