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John Sanford, News Service (650) 736-2151; e-mail:

Top Stanford genetics researchers to hold public forum Jan. 20

DNA, cloning, genetic blueprints -- these were buzzwords in the 1990s, and they are likely to become even more conspicuous during the 21st century. You may run into them reading a local newspaper or watching a science-fiction movie. But what do they mean exactly? And while there is extensive research going on these days in the field of genetics, what are the implications outside the laboratory?

Four world-renowned Stanford University genetics researchers will address these kinds of questions at "Breaking the Code: Genetics Research at Stanford," a free public forum scheduled from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, in Stanford's Cubberley Auditorium. Seating is limited, so those who want to attend should make reservations by calling (650) 725-2650.

Richard Myers, founder and director of the Stanford Human Genome Center; David Botstein, chairman of the university's Genetics Department; Luca Cavalli-Sforza, an active professor emeritus of genetics; and Will Talbot, a professor of developmental biology, will discuss the groundbreaking genetics research being done at the university and outline a roadmap to the future of genetics and genetic medicine.

The event, sponsored by the Stanford Continuing Studies Program, highlights the work being done by these researchers to map the entire human genome, to find genetic markers for disease and to relate genetic diversity and human populations.

"This will be a tremendous opportunity for the public to understand the DNA revolution and its present and future impact on all our lives," said Terry Shtob, associate dean of Continuing Studies.

Botstein, a national leader in genetics research, directs the Human Genetics Program.

"Genetics offers the best road to understanding disease at this time," he said. "We can ask: Which genes predispose a person to this disease, what are the factors that work with the gene to cause the disease, and what can you do about it?"

Botstein has been responsible for recruiting many of the nation's top genetic scientists, including Myers, to Stanford. With biochemist Ronald Davis, Botstein led the team that, in 1996, sequenced the entire genome of baker's yeast, the first cell with a nucleus to be sequenced, and then began putting the yeast to work testing genes that might have similar functions in humans.

Myers founded the Stanford Human Genome Center in 1993 and directs its efforts to construct detailed genetic and physical maps of the human DNA sequence. The center is one of the key sites in the national effort to chart each rung of the DNA ladder for the entire 3-billion-base-pair sequence of the human genome, using a technology developed to map more than 6,000 markers along the length of the genome. Myers' research focuses on understanding the molecular basis of inherited diseases in humans and the role of genes in a number of genetic disorders, including autism, ovarian cancer, Huntington's disease and epilepsy.

Cavalli-Sforza is chairman of the Human Genome Organization International Committee of the Human Genome Diversity Project. He is author of The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994) and directs the laboratory of human evolution at the Genetics Department in Stanford’s Medical School.

Will Talbot directs the Stanford Zebrafish Genome Project, studying zebrafish as a "model organism" that will help scientists understand the human genome. He and his colleagues have mapped more than 1,500 zebrafish genes in an effort that allows them to compare zebrafish and human genomes.


By John Sanford

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