[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: WILLIAM J. CLINTON (2000, Book I)]
[June 26, 2000]
[Pages 1267-1269]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Completion of the First Survey of the Human Genome
June 26, 2000

    The President.  Good morning. I want to, first of all, acknowledge 
Prime Minister Blair, who will join us by 
satellite in just a moment from London. I want to welcome here the 
Ambassadors from the United Kingdom, 
Japan, Germany, 
France. And I'd also like to 
acknowledge the contributions not only that their scientists but also 
scientists from China made to the vast international consortium that is 
the human genome project.
    I thank Secretary Shalala, who could 
not be here today, and Secretary Richardson, 
who is here; Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, Dr. 
Ari Patrinos, scientists of the 
Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Energy, 
who have played an important role in the human genome project.
    I want to say a special word of thanks to my science adviser, Dr. 
Neal Lane, and of course, to Dr. Francis 
Collins, the director of the international 
human genome project, and to the Celera president, Craig Venter. I thank Senator Harkin and 
Senator Sarbanes for being here, and the 
other distinguished guests.
    Nearly two centuries ago, in this room, on this floor, Thomas 
Jefferson and a trusted aide spread out a magnificent map, a map 
Jefferson had long prayed he would get to see in his lifetime. The aide 
was Meriwether Lewis, and the map was the product of his courageous 
expedition across the American frontier, all the way to the Pacific. It 
was a map that defined the contours and forever expanded the frontiers 
of our continent and our imagination.
    Today the world is joining us here in the East Room to behold a map 
of even greater significance. We are here to celebrate the completion of 
the first survey of the entire human genome. Without a doubt, this is 
the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind.
    The moment we are here to witness was brought about through 
brilliant and painstaking work of scientists all over the world, 
including many men and women here today. It was not even 50 years ago 
that a young Englishman named Crick and a 
brash, even younger American named Watson 
first discovered the elegant structure of our genetic code. Dr. Watson, 
the way you announced your discovery in the journal ``Nature'' was one 
of the great understatements of all time: ``This structure has novel 
features, which are of considerable biological interest.'' [Laughter] 
Thank you, sir.
    How far we have come since that day. In the intervening years, we 
have pooled the combined wisdom of biology, chemistry, physics, 
engineering, mathematics, and computer science; tapped the great 
strengths and insights of the public and private sectors. More than 
1,000 researchers across 6 nations have revealed nearly all 3 billion 
letters of our miraculous genetic code. I congratulate all of you on 
this stunning and humbling achievement.
    Today's announcement represents more than just an epic-making 
triumph of science and reason. After all, when Galileo discovered he 
could use the tools of mathematics and mechanics to understand the 
motion of celestial bodies, he felt, in the words of one eminent 
researcher, ``that he had learned the language in which God created the 
    Today, we are learning the language in which God created life. We 
are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, the wonder of 
God's most divine and sacred gift. With this profound new knowledge, 
humankind is on the verge of gaining immense new power to heal. Genome 
science will have a real impact on all our lives and even more on the 
lives of our

[[Page 1268]]

children. It will revolutionize the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment 
of most, if not all, human diseases.
    In coming years, doctors increasingly will be able to cure diseases 
like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, and cancer by attacking their 
genetic roots. Just to offer one example, patients with some forms of 
leukemia and breast cancer already are being treated in clinical trials 
with sophisticated new drugs that precisely target the faulty genes and 
cancer cells, with little or no risk to healthy cells. In fact, it is 
now conceivable that our children's children will know the term 
``cancer'' only as a constellation of stars.
    But today's historic achievement is only a starting point. There is 
much hard work yet to be done. That is why I'm so pleased to announce 
that from this moment forward, the robust and healthy competition that 
has led us to this day and that always is essential to the progress of 
science will be coupled with enhanced public/private cooperation.
    Public and private research teams are committed to publishing their 
genomic data simultaneously later this year for the benefit of 
researchers in every corner of the globe. And after publication, both 
sets of teams will join together for an historic sequence analysis 
conference. Together, they will examine what scientific insights have 
been gleaned from both efforts and how we can most judiciously proceed 
toward the next majestic horizons.
    What are those next horizons? Well, first, we will complete a 
virtually error-free final draft of the human genome before the 50th 
anniversary of the discovery of the double helix, less than 3 years from 
now. Second, through sustained and vigorous support for public and 
private research, we must sort through this trove of genomic data to 
identify every human gene. We must discover the function of these genes 
and their protein products, and then we must rapidly convert that 
knowledge into treatments that can lengthen and enrich lives.
    I want to emphasize that biotechnology companies are absolutely 
essential in this endeavor, for it is they who will bring to the market 
the life-enhancing applications of the information from the human 
genome. And for that reason, this administration is committed to helping 
them to make the kind of long-term investments that will change the face 
of medicine forever.
    The third horizon that lies before us is one that science cannot 
approach alone. It is the horizon that represents the ethical, moral, 
and spiritual dimension of the power we now possess. We must not shrink 
from exploring that far frontier of science. But as we consider how to 
use new discovery, we must also not retreat from our oldest and most 
cherished human values. We must ensure that new genome science and its 
benefits will be directed toward making life better for all citizens of 
the world, never just a privileged few.
    As we unlock the secrets of the human genome, we must work 
simultaneously to ensure that new discoveries never pry open the doors 
of privacy. And we must guarantee that genetic information cannot be 
used to stigmatize or discriminate against any individual or group.
    Increasing knowledge of the human genome must never change the basic 
belief on which our ethics, our Government, our society are founded. All 
of us are created equal, entitled to equal treatment under the law. 
After all, I believe one of the great truths to emerge from this 
triumphant expedition inside the human genome is that in genetic terms, 
all human beings, regardless of race, are more than 99.9 percent the 
    What that means is that modern science has confirmed what we first 
learned from ancient faiths. The most important fact of life on this 
Earth is our common humanity. My greatest wish on this day for the ages 
is that this incandescent truth will always guide our actions as we 
continue to march forth in this, the greatest age of discovery ever 
    Now, it is my great pleasure to turn to my friend Prime Minister 
Tony Blair, who is joined in the State Dining 
Room at 10 Downing Street by Dr. Fred Sanger and 
other world-renowned scientists. With the generous support of the 
Wellcome Trust, British scientists have played an invaluable role in 
reaching this milestone.
    On behalf of the American people, I would like to thank the Prime 
Minister, the scientists, and the British nation 
for the brilliant work you have brought to this international effort.
    And Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to 
salute not only your unwavering support for genome research but also 
your visionary commitment to sparking ever-greater innovation across the 
full spectrum of science and technology. And on a personal note, I can't 
help but think that the year of your son's birth 
will always

[[Page 1269]]

be remembered for the remarkable achievements we announce today. I think 
his life expectancy has just gone up by about 25 years. [Laughter]

[At this point, Prime Minister Tony Blair of the 
United Kingdom made remarks by satellite.]

    The President.  Tony, if I could, I would 
like to pick up on your last remark. I think everybody genuinely is 
concerned about the issues you raised, the privacy issues, and the whole 
general set of ethical, social, and legal issues. And it strikes me that 
our scientists--the British and the American scientists, our French, 
German, Chinese counterparts who worked on this--were working toward a 
single, clearly defined goal in all those countries and in the other 
countries of the world that will have to live with both the benefits and 
the challenges of these discoveries.
    There are different legal systems, different social mores, but I 
think that it would be a very good thing if the U.S, the U.K., and 
anybody else that wants to work with us could have the same sort of 
joint endeavor we've had with the human genome to deal with the 
implications of this, to deal with the legal, the social, the ethical 
implications. We may have differences from country to country, but I 
think that if we work together, we'll give a higher sense of urgency to 
the project, and we'll get a better product.
    And so I'm offering you another partnership. 
It's easy for me to do, because you'll have to do it, and I'll be gone. 

[Prime Minister Blair responded.]

    The President.  Thank you. Thank you very much, Tony.
    Now, in a few moments, we'll hear from Celera president Dr. Craig 
Venter, who shares in the glory of this day, 
and deservedly so because of his truly visionary pursuit of innovative 
strategies to sequence the human genome as rapidly as possible. And I 
thank you, Craig, for what you have done to make this day possible.
    And now I'd like to invite Dr. Francis Collins to the lectern. I also want to congratulate him. From 
his development of some of the central methods for finding human disease 
genes to his successful application of those methods to the discovery of 
the cystic fibrosis gene in 1989 to his current leadership for the 
international human genome project, he has combined the talents of 
rigorous science and a profound sensitivity to ethical, legal, and 
social issues. He is a physician-scientist of great faith, compassion, 
energy, and integrity. And he has truly helped us more than anyone else 
to understand how the marvels of genome science will actually improve 
human health.
    So Dr. Collins, please come up to the 

[Dr. Francis Collins, Director, National 
Human Genome Research Institute, and Dr. J. Craig Venter, president and chief scientific officer, Celera Genomics 
Corp., made brief remarks.]

    The President.  Well, thank you both for those remarkable 
statements. I suppose, in closing, the most important thing I could do 
is to associate myself with Dr. Venter's 
last statement. When we get this all worked out and we're all living to 
be 150--[laughter]--young people will still fall in love; old people 
will still fight about things that should have been resolved 50 years 
ago--[laughter]--we will all, on occasion, do stupid things; and we will 
all see the unbelievable capacity of humanity to be noble. This is a 
great day.
    Thank you very much.

 Note: The President spoke at 10:19 a.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Ambassadors to the U.S. 
Christopher Meyer of the United Kingdom, Shunji Yanai of Japan, Juergen 
Chrobog of Germany, and Francois Bujon de l'Estang of France; Aristides 
Patrinos, Associate Director, Office of Science, Department of Energy; 
James D. Watson, president, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Francis H. 
Crick, researcher, Cambridge Laboratory of Molecular Biology; Frederick 
Sanger, 1958 and 1980 Nobel Prize-winner for chemistry; and Prime 
Minister Blair's son, Leo. The transcript released by the Office of the 
Press Secretary also included the remarks of the Prime Minister Blair, 
Dr. Collins, and Dr. Venter.