Mapping the Human Genome, Groundwork for a New Era of Medicine

Interview with Dr. Jamie Cuticchia, Founder of the Ontario-Based Centre for Bioinformatics Supercomputing

Dr. Jamie Cuticchia is the Head of the Bioinformatics program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Since 1997, Dr. Cuticchia has actively and successfully developed this program, which is designed to turn trillions of pieces of biological information into usable knowledge. Dr. Cuticchia kindly agreed to share his thoughts on the future of medicine, bioinformatics, and Canada's role in the overall genome project.

Q: Dr. Cuticchia, we have just seen two rival groups announce that they won the race to sequence the Human Genome. How can they have "won the race", if the complete sequence will not be available until 2003? Who are these two groups? Has the race been "won" and who won it?

A: The "race", which has been heralded by the press for the past year or so, has been between the private effort by Celera Genomics and the public sequencing effort lead by Francis Collins at NIH but including researchers in Europe as well. Celera claims to have the genome sequenced and now is in effect assembling the pieces. This is like saying that they have located all the pieces, but the puzzle still isn't complete. The public effort has gone a more methodical way by sequencing on a clone-by-clone basis, which in effect combines sequencing and assembly.