Myriad Genetics
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Of Isolated Genes and Covalent Bonds: A Personal Memoir of Myriad Genetics

By Jorge A. Goldstein, Ph.D. of Sterne Kessler Goldstein and Fox PLLC

In 1973, as a young graduate student in organic chemistry at Harvard, influenced by my advisor Frank Westheimer's prescient view that "the future belongs to biology," I took James Watson's introductory course in genetics. Three times a week I left my lab and walked over to the Bio Labs, its entrance flanked by Bessie and Victoria, the two massive rhino sculptures that have stood guard since the 1930s, a time when biology was about big animals and plants, not their genomes and proteomes.

Watson, who twelve years earlier had won the Nobel Prize for his discovery, together with Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and others, of the double helix structure of DNA, duly held forth on the biological roles of genes, promoters, and operons. While I was very impressed by my celebrity professor, the class bored me to tears. I was an organic chemist. I didn't think of DNA or RNA as organic chemicals that could be readily manipulated in the lab by making and breaking covalent bonds, the way you could modify a steroid or a prostaglandin molecule. These DNAs and RNAs were information storage elements, and the closest they got to organic chemistry was their polymeric nature, a fact that did not impress me much.

Little did I know that the tension between the views of DNAs as information storage or as organic molecules would be played out dramatically one morning forty years later in the courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court, with Dr. W...

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