8th January 2001

Dr John Sulston Knighted in the New Year Honours list

Dr John Sulston, former Director of the Sanger Centre, was awarded a knighthood for services to genome research in the New Year Honours list.

Dr Sulston was instrumental in establishing the Sanger Centre and, with the backing of the Wellcome Trust, built the Centre into one of the world's premier genomics centres. Today, the Sanger Centre is responsible for sequencing one-third of the human genome, the genomes of dozens of disease-causing organisms, as well as providing annotation - that is interpreting the DNA code.

Dr Sulston stressed that he felt he was accepting the award on behalf of all the staff at the Sanger Centre. "What I most value is the recognition of the Sanger Centre team, and that their achievement is important to the people of this country."

The Sanger Centre was established in 1993 with a staff of 17. Today, about 600 staff are employed on genomics and postgenomics projects. In 1998, the team at the Sanger Centre, together with Dr Bob Waterston's group at Washington University, St Louis, finished the sequence the 100 million base-pair genome of the nematode worm C. elegans, establishing the methods for analysis of large genomes. Today the sequence of the C. elegans genome is an invaluable resource in understanding gene function.

Dr Sulston also played a key role in ensuring that genomic data are freely available without restriction in the public domain. The philosophy of the participants and funding agencies of the Human Genome Project is that genomic data is most useful if it is freely and rapidly available to all: this philosophy was established at a series of meetings in the mid-1990s. Data from the Human Genome Project have already been used to identify scores of genes involved in human diseases such as cancer, deafness and diabetes.

Professor Allan Bradley, the new Director of the Sanger Centre, said "I am very proud to see John recognized for his substantial contributions to British Science. Through his vision and efforts The Wellcome Trust funded Sanger Centre has played a major role in deciphering the Human genome. On the international scene John has been a champion of free data release policies and has been the dominant figure in establishing & upholding the principles of free data release".

Under Professor Allan Bradley the Sanger Centre will build on the efforts of the past decade to provide comprehensive and freely available information about the genes in our genome and the genomes of other organisms important to humanity.

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