What’s in James Watson’s Genome?

Question: You were the second person, after Craig Venter, to have your genome sequenced; what did you learn?

James Watson: Not much.  I learned that I had a polymorphism, which meant that I metabolized some important drugs more slowly and therefore they would pose greater risk to me if I took too much of them.  So that was a very useful fact.  And so, if I was you know, suddenly to go psychotic and they gave me an anti-psychotic, unless they were careful they could kill me with it.  And you know, you’d just think it was an overdose, but no, it was my genes. 

Then I sort of confirmed my hunch that I digested milk poorly, that... if I had a large consumption of ice cream.  And I had noticed something was strange when I was working out the DNA structure, I was having constant stomach pains which other people were saying, “Well you’re just nervous about racing or with Linus Pauling.”  But it was in fact, I’m still trying to be like an American and drinking a quart a day.  And by that time I had lost the... was losing the ability to digest lactose.

Question: What did you choose not to learn about your genome?

James Watson: I chose not to find out whether I had a serious risk for Alzheimer’s.  And at the time, you know, it was a little murky.  It’s getting much clearer now.  So Craig Venter, who put his entire sequence on, it came out that he’s at risk.  But he could probably define the risk better by looking at the sequence today as opposed to a few years ago.

Question: How much does it cost to sequence a genome today?

James Watson: Well, I think it’s still, to be honest, about $20,000.  There’s always a question about how you do the accounting and so on, but the cost of the reagents that you put into the machine and how often do you use the machine.  So, but there’s a lot who believe it’s going to fall by another factor of 10, certainly within 10 years and maybe a soon as three or four.  At which point then, the cost of you know, sequence scanning will be essentially trivial and the whole cost will then go toward interpreting it.

Recorded on September 28, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman

The molecular biologist’s genome is the second to ever be sequenced. The results gave him some potentially life-saving information.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

10 books to check out from Jordan Peterson's 'Great Books' list

The Canadian professor has an extensive collection posted on his site.

Jordan Peterson with Carl Jung and the cover art of Jaak Panksepp's 'Affective Neuroscience' (Image: Chris Williamson/Getty Images/Big Think)
Personal Growth
  • Peterson's Great Books list features classics by Orwell, Jung, Huxley, and Dostoevsky.
  • Categories include literature, neuroscience, religion, and systems analysis.
  • Having recently left Patreon for "freedom of speech" reasons, Peterson is taking direct donations through Paypal (and Bitcoin).
Keep reading Show less

Scientists claim the Bible is written in code that predicts future events

The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.

Michael Drosnin
Surprising Science
  • Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
  • The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
  • Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
Keep reading Show less

Should you invest in China's stock market? Know this one thing first.

Despite incredible economic growth, it is not necessarily an investor's paradise.

Videos
  • China's stock market is just 27 years old. It's economy has grown 30x over that time.
  • Imagine if you had invested early and gotten in on the ground floor.
  • Actually, you would have lost money. Here's how that's possible.