George M. Church
Election Year: 2011
Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Secondary Section: 42, Medical Physiology and Metabolism
Membership Type: Member
As a chemist, initially crystallographer, I have developed new technologies for analyzing and synthesizing large, macromolecular assemblages ranging in size from tRNAs to human genomes. Conceiving of molecular multiplexing and barcode tags in 1980 lead to the first direct genomic sequencing approach, then to automation used for the first commercial genome sequence, for the pathogen, Helicobacter in 1994. This evolved into Fluorescent In Situ Sequencing (FISSeq) in 1999, ABI-SOLiD in 2006, the only open-source device (Polonator.org) in 2007, Complete Genomics in 2008, and consumer-directed genomics (Knome, 23andme). Work on organic synthesis of oligonucleotide arrays and homologous recombination in the 1990s lead to research on synthetic, minimal, in vitro protein synthesis and photosynthetic production of alkanes from carbon dioxide (at Joule and LS9). I found that intimate early views of new technologies offered the obligation and opportunity to develop novel ethics, safety and security strategies including construction of radically new cellular genomes with genetic codes that could protect from all viruses and other genetic exchanges. Such considerations also launched the Personal Genome Project to integrate human genomic, environmental and trait data, providing the world's only IRB-approved open-access source for such data.