Who was involved in the Human Genome Project?

The Human Genome Project brought scientists together from across the globe. Worldwide collaboration and support was an essential part of the project’s success. 

The Human Genome Project was a publicly funded project that brought scientists together from across the globe. Support and funding from the Department of Energy and US National Institutes of Health and later in the UK from the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust enabled the project to run on a huge scale. The labs from these organisations then joined with collaborators across six countries to take on the massive task of sequencing the first human genome.

The US side of the Human Genome Project was initially led by James Watson.

The US side of the Human Genome Project was initially led by James Watson (one half of Crick and Watson, who discovered the structure of DNA), and later by Francis Collins. John Sulston, who was the director here at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (at that time called the Sanger Centre), was principal leader of the UK side of the project.

The project itself would end up costing a huge $3 billion over 13 years.

Everyone involved was keen that the project was a joint effort. This was in part because it was concerning the ‘human’ genome, not the ‘American’ or ‘British’ genome, but also because they needed worldwide support as the project itself would end up costing a huge $3 billion over 13 years (although their initial goal was 15 years). The Human Genome Project provided an excellent opportunity to encourage international cooperation in biological science, setting standards in techniques and technologies across the globe to influence future medical research.

An international project

To section off the workload equally, sequencing of the 23 pairs of chromosomes contained in the human genome was divided up between sequencing centres around the world.  

The Human Genome Project involved scientists from 20 institutions in six countries.

In total, the ‘International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium’, as the Human Genome Project team was known, involved scientists from 20 institutions in six countries: France, Germany, Japan, China, the UK and the USA (the full list can be found below).

All of these countries played an important role in the project, however, there were five main sites that sequenced the majority of the human genome. Nicknamed the ‘G5’, these were:

  • Broad Institute/Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (MIT) in Cambridge, USA
  • Washington University in St Louis, USA
  • Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, USA
  • Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, USA
  • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (previously known as the Sanger Centre) in Cambridge, UK

Here at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute we sequenced almost one-third of the human genome.

Here at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute we sequenced almost one-third of the human genome, focusing on chromosomes 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13, 20, 22 and X (some of which were shared with other centres).


Members of the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium

1. Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, UK

2. Broad Institute/Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

3. Washington University School of Medicine Genome Sequencing Center, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

The human genome sequenced during the Human Genome Project was from randomly chosen anonymous donations given in the USA.

4. Joint Genome Institute, US Department of Energy, Walnut Creek, California, USA

5. Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Houston, Texas, USA

6. RIKEN Genomic Sciences Center, Yokohama-city, Japan

7. Genoscope and CNRS, UMR-8030, Evry Cedex, France

8. Genome Therapeutics Corporation (GTC) Sequencing Center, Genome Therapeutics Corporation, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA

9. Department of Genome Analysis, Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Jena, Germany

10. Beijing Genomics Institute/Human Genome Center, Institute of Genetics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

11. Multimegabase Sequencing Center, The Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, Washington, USA

12. Stanford Genome Technology Center, Stanford, California, USA

13. Stanford Human Genome Center and Department of Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA

14. University of Washington Genome Center, Seattle, Washington, USA

The second-ever human genome to be sequenced was that of James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.

15. Department of Molecular Biology, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan

16. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA*

17. University of Oklahoma's Advanced Center for Genome Technology, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA

18. Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany

19. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Lita Annenberg Hazen Genome Center, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA

20. Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung mbH (GBF) - German Research Centre for Biotechnology, Braunschweig, Germany.

*Sequencing centre is no longer in operation

The European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, UK, and the National Centre for Biotechnology Information at the US National Institutes of Health also played a key role in providing computational support and analysis for the Human Genome Project. Scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Neomorphic, Inc. also assisted the assembly of the genome sequence across chromosomes.

This page was last updated on 2021-07-21