November 2010

Bracing for the Revolution: The Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy at Duke University

With advances in computing and sequencing technology, science has been riding the wave of the Human Genome Project, ushering in a new era where genetic information will greatly impact science, medicine and society. Anticipating this new era, Duke University developed a unique response to the Genome Age: The Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy.


Huntington Willard
Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy Director Huntington F. Willard.

Huntington F. Willard, the Nanaline H. Duke professor of genome sciences at Duke University, notes that genetics holds a certain kind of mystique for people that most other sciences do not have.

“I describe it as being similar to an expecting parent seeing their first ultrasound,” he says. “It’s just a fuzzy image, but it immediately evokes a sense of wonder about life. Genetics is like that; if I hand you a copy of your genome, you can look at it much like that developing baby. That’s your code; your characteristics and traits, not to mention a snapshot of both your past and future— that’s very powerful stuff.”

And, in today’s world, the idea of looking over your genetic makeup is not a far-fetched one. With advances in computing and sequencing technology, science has been riding the wave of the Human Genome Project, ushering in a new era where genetic information will greatly impact science, medicine and perhaps, most importantly in Willard’s eyes, society.

Anticipating this new era, Duke University developed a unique response to the Genome Age: The Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy.

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