DNA link leads from Woolsthorpe to Houston

A WOOLSTHORPE boy who grew up to work as a professor in the Lone Star state of Texas has been recognised as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).

Houston-based molecular expert Richard Gibbs was the first to sequence the important parts of a single human gene in the early 1990s.

He grew up in the Woolsthorpe district four decades ago and claimed his south-west upbringing fuelled his fascination for everything related to science.

“You’re always innovating on a farm,” Professor Gibbs said.

The young Gibbs started his science career at the University of Melbourne but has spent the past 30 years living in the United States. In 1996 he became the founder and director of the Human Genome Sequencing Centre at Baylor College in Texas.

At the same time he and colleagues were trying to decipher human DNA, a private venture group led by American scientist and entrepreneur Craig Venter was attempting the same feat — sparking fears it might file patent on the human genome data.

“That really consolidated our effort,” he said.

For his service to science and academic medicine as a leader in genetics and human genome sequencing, Professor Gibbs has been awarded an AC.

“It’s been a pleasure to see science and academia well represented (in this year’s honours),” he said from Houston.

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