Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D. is the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a position he has held since late 2009. NHGRI is the largest organization in the world solely dedicated to genomics research. Previously, he served as the NHGRI Scientific Director (2002- 2009), Chief of the NHGRI Genome Technology Branch (1996-2009), and Director of the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center (1997-2009).
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Green received his B.S. degree in Bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981, and his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Washington University in 1987. During residency training in clinical pathology (laboratory medicine), he worked in the laboratory of Dr. Maynard Olson, where he launched his career in genomics research. In 1992, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Pathology and Genetics as well as a Co-Investigator in the Human Genome Center at Washington University. In 1994, he joined the newly established Intramural Research Program of the National Center for Human Genome Research, later renamed the National Human Genome Research Institute.
While directing an independent research program for almost two decades, Dr. Green was at the forefront of efforts to map, sequence, and understand eukaryotic genomes. His work included significant, start-to-finish involvement in the Human Genome Project. These efforts eventually blossomed into a highly productive program in comparative genomics that provided important insights about genome structure, function, and evolution. His laboratory also identified and characterized several human disease genes, including those implicated in certain forms of hereditary deafness, vascular disease, and inherited peripheral neuropathy.
As Director of NHGRI, Dr. Green is responsible for providing overall leadership of the Institute’s research portfolio and other initiatives. In 2011, Dr. Green led NHGRI to the completion of a strategic planning process that yielded a new vision for the future of genomics research, entitled Charting a course for genomic medicine from base pairs to bedside (Nature 470:204-213, 2011). Since that time, he has led the Institute in broadening its research mission; this has included designing and launching a number of major programs to accelerate the application of genomics to medical care. With the rapidly expanding scope of genomics, his leadership efforts have also involved significant coordination with multiple components of the NIH, as well as other agencies and organizations.
Beyond NHGRI-specific programs, Dr. Green has also played an instrumental leadership role in the development of a number of high-profile efforts relevant to genomics, including the Smithsonian-NHGRI exhibition Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code, the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program, the NIH Genomic Data Sharing Policy, and the U.S. Precision Medicine Initiative.
Starting with the launch of the Human Genome Project in 1990, the past quarter-century has brought spectacular achievements in genomics that dramatically empower the study of human biology and disease. The human genomics enterprise is now in the midst of an important transition, as the growing foundation of genomic knowledge is being used by researchers and clinicians to tackle increasingly complex problems in biomedicine. Of particular prominence is the use of revolutionary new DNA sequencing technologies for generating prodigious amounts of DNA sequence data to elucidate the complexities of genome structure, function, and evolution, as well as to unravel the genomic bases of rare and common diseases. Together, these developments are ushering in the era of genomic medicine.
Augmenting the advances in human genomics have been innovations in technologies for measuring environmental and lifestyle information, electronic health records, and data science; together, these provide opportunities of unprecedented scale and scope for investigating the underpinnings of health and disease. To capitalize on these opportunities, U.S. President Barack Obama recently announced a major new research endeavor— the U.S. Precision Medicine Initiative. This bold effort will be framed around several key aims, which include accelerating the use of genomically informed approaches to cancer care, making important policy and regulatory changes, and establishing a large research cohort of >1 million volunteers to facilitate precision medicine research. The latter will include making the partnership with all participants a centerpiece feature in the cohort’s design and development. The Precision Medicine Initiative represents a broad-based research program that will allow new approaches for individualized medical care to be rigorously tested, so as to establish a new evidence base for advancing clinical practice and, eventually, human health.