In 1988, a group of scientists at the famed Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory gathered to create a “UN for the human genome.” Dr. Victor McKusick, father of clinical medical genetics, was the Human Genome Organisation’s first president. Over the past 20 years, HUGO’s membership list has grown with members hailing from more than 20 countries. HUGO membership is open to scientists currently active in genetics research.
From the start, HUGO’s aims have been to coordinate research on the human genome as well as to provide support to young scientists through training and mentoring programs. HUGO is also concerned with the application of genomic medicine, drug discovery and related genomic tools and technology. Additionally, HUGO organizes meetings, workshops, and conferences to encourage discussion of issues important to the use of genomics for improving public health and society worldwide. Various committees focus on ethics, gene nomenclature, intellectual property, education and public awareness, and publications. To further encourage international collaboration, HUGO’s headquarters recently relocated to Singapore and is now housed at Biopolis, a biomedical research and development hub.
HUGO’s current president is Dr. Edison Liu whose career began at Stanford University where he received his bachelor’s and medical degrees. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Washington University, St. Louis, and clinical cancer fellowships at Stanford and UCSF. He has also been faculty at UNC Chapel Hill and Director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Clinical Sciences from 1996 to 2001. Dr. Liu is currently affiliated with a number of top tier universities and is also Executive Director of the Genome Institute of Singapore. Of HUGO he says in the president’s message:
As I thought about HUGO in relation to the recent developments in genomics, I was left with two profound impressions. First, is that HUGO represents an international force with an important role to play especially with the rise of scientific capabilities in the emerging and developing countries in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Second, that there is a need for a global organization to help guide all societies in the mature applications of genomics in medicine and public policy. The time for Genome Medicine has arrived and the need for HUGO has never been greater.