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Behind the Scenes: Putting the Genome on Paper

NEW YORK, Feb 12 – Public researchers spent long hours and weekends preparing their genome sequencing paper for this week’s seminal issue of Nature .

And when all was said and done, it was the mouse that took the heat.

" We met on phone calls almost weekly during the summer and fall. Francis Collins, John Sulston, Eric Lander, and I had a two-day session in Philadelphia one Friday night and all of Saturday," Bob Waterston, Director of the Washington University Genome Sequencing Center, told Genomeweb. " Each section went under heavy editing."

" We cut back heavily on the analysis of the mouse."

Waterston said that the editors of the paper aimed to cast the information in such a way that it would help to generate more questions than it answered.

" Knowing that with the incomplete genome we weren’t going to be able to give definite answers on anything, we viewed [the paper] more as a way of framing the future, of identifying interesting questions in the genome," Waterston said.

He said that with 90 percent of the genome sequenced, researchers now have " the low-hanging fruit" of the human genetic code. With this, researchers will be able to get good insight into the overall composition of the human genome as they work towards completing the sequencing task. The research centers participating in the Human Genome Project aim to have a finished copy of the entire genome by 2003.

While working on the most important project in modern science might make some people's egos swell, for Waterston, the experience helped him to keep everything in perspective.

" We’re only about two times more complex than worms and three times more complex than flies," said Waterston. " We’re not so fancy after all."

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