Microsoft billionaire and Vulcan Ventures founder Paul Allen is behind a documentary about the Human Genome Project that will air nationally on public television next year. Among the film’s stars are the usual suspects. From the public side: Francis Collins, Eric Lander, Bob Waterston, and James Watson. From Celera: MarK Adams, Gene Myers, Marshall Peterson, Hamilton Smith, and Craig Venter. Betsey Arledge, a Nova producer who began shooting the film a year ago for Allen’s firm Clear Blue Sky Productions, says it is meant to be a “users’ guide to the genome that shows what all this information will tell you.” The two-hour special will include a series of true stories that show the effect the genome sequence could have on medical care. But the film also gets behind-the-scenes in a way that Arledge says should be interesting to genomic scientists. For instance, her crew, which was given “great access” to NIH facilities and Celera, captured the teams “nipping at each other’s heels.” Arledge says she was struck by the intensity in both the public and private labs: “There was a tremendous sense of urgency and incredible energy.” Especially at Celera, she says, scientists were intent on “constantly finding ways to make it better and faster and more accurate.” Arledge adds that public sector researchers were “quite candid about how they have had to convert to an assembly line way of doing science.” Mark Schena, CEO of ArrayIt.com, a Sunnyvale, Calif. chipmaker, is also featured in a segment that explains how DNA chips will be used to screen newborn babies for metabolic disorders. The film will air on PBS in Spring 2001.
— Adrienne Burke