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Double Helix meeting in honor of James D. Watson on his 90th birthday

The idea that the first individual human genome sequence should be that of Jim Watson, occurred to Baylor Genome Center director Richard Gibbs and 454 Life Sciences founder Jonathan Rothberg after a 454 advisory board meeting in 2005. At the time, Rothberg compared the company’s sequencing innovations with technology advances that shrank computers to a size small enough for personal use. Subsequently, 454 helped understand the mystery behind the disappearance of the honey bee, uncovered a new virus killing transplant patients, and elucidated the extent of human variation.

On Saturday, April 7 Rothberg, who now heads the startup accelerator 4Catalyzer, is hosting a meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Grace Auditorium in honor of Jim. The meeting, The Double Helix: Creation, Complexity, Consciousness & the Cosmos will feature leading geneticists, sociologists, astronomers and biotech innovators to highlight DNA’s historic and future impact on solving society’s most challenging problems.

Pre-registration for this meeting is required. Please contact Bridgette Johnson at:

The Double Helix: Creation, Complexity, Consciousness & the Cosmos

Host & meeting organizer, Jonathan Rothberg, Ph.D.

Saturday April 7, 2018

Meeting Schedule & Speakers

8-9am—Check-in / Breakfast

9am—Welcome: Jonathan Rothberg
9:10am—Individual Talks
10:40am—Panel Discussion

11:25am—Luncheon & Artist* Presentation

12:40pm—Individual Talks
1:55pm—Panel Discussion
3pm—Individual talks
4:15pm—Panel Discussion

5–6pm—Cocktail Reception

Jim Watson and Jonathan Rothberg
Jonathan Rothberg, founder of 454 Life Sciences (right) presents Jim Watson with his genome. June 2007


Nicholas Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., MPH Co-Director, Yale Institute for Network Science. American sociologist and physician known for research on social networks and on the socioeconomic and biosocial determinants of behavior, health and longevity.

Richard Gibbs, Founder and Director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center established at Baylor College of Medicine in 1996.

Ellen Jorgensen, Co-founder & President of Biotech without Borders, a nonprofit organization that promotes citizen science and access to biotechnology.

Pamela Ronald, Author of Tomorrow’s Table. American plant pathologist and geneticist, UC Davis Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Plant Pathology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Genome Center.

Jonathan Rothberg, 4Catalyzer; The Rothberg Institute for Childhood Diseases. Best known for bringing the first next-generation sequencing technology to market, an effort that included inventing the first non-bacterial cloning method and the first massively parallel DNA sequencing method. Jonathan’s most recent invention is the Butterfly iQTM, the world’s first FDA-cleared, whole-body ultrasound scanner, built by putting an ultrasound device on a chip.

Gary Ruvkun, Professor of Genetics, Harvard University. Ruvkun discovered the mechanism by which lin-4, the first microRNA discovered by Victor Ambros, regulates the translation of target messenger RNAs via imperfect base-pairing to those targets, and discovered the second miRNA, let-7, and that it is conserved across animal phylogeny, including in humans.

Jill Tarter, American Astronomer and former Director of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute.

Max Tegmark, Author of Life 3.0. Swedish-American cosmologist, MIT professor and scientific director of the Foundational Questions Institute.

Antoine van Oijen, Laureate Fellow, University of Wollongong, Australia—Antoine’s lab brings physics, chemistry and biology together to develop novel physical tools to study important biological processes at the single-molecule level.

Feng Zhang, Professor of Neuroscience, MIT & core member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard—Zhang is best known for his central role in the development of optogenetics and CRISPR technologies.

Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research at MIT. Maria focuses on the structure and tectonics of solid solar system objects. She specializes in using gravity and laser altimetry measurements to determine interior structure and evolution and has been involved in more than half a dozen NASA planetary missions aimed at mapping the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and several asteroids. She was principal investigator for the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) and as such became the first woman to lead a NASA spacecraft mission.

*Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s controversial biopolitical art practice includes the project Stranger Visions in which she created portrait sculptures from analyses of genetic material (hair, cigarette butts, chewed up gum) collected in public places.