Welcome and Introduction Remarks

It's a great pleasure on behalf of the local committee to welcome you to Dallas for this meeting. We hope that you will find it both interesting and thought provoking. Before proceeding, though, I'd like to thank the local arrangements committee. Their names are listed in your program there. The committee was chaired by Margaret McDermott and Bill Seybold.

I'd also like, at this time, to recognize Evelyn Stehling who is seated in the back, as well as her assistant, Melinda Reese. These two ladies are really responsible for all the arrangements, and I'd ask you to join me in expressing our appreciation to them.

We had hoped that Dr. Francis Collins, who is the director of the Human Genome Project, could be with us at this meeting, but, unfortunately, he had a conflict and couldn't join us. I had the good fortune of attending a meeting in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago where Dr. Collins spoke. In his presentation he listed a number of questions that he felt needed to be addressed within the context of the Human Genome Project.

I asked him if I might present some of those same questions to the audience today because I think it would set the stage for this meeting. He graciously agreed and I would suggest that you make a mental note, or even jot down on paper, these questions. I think you'll find that each of them will be touched on in one way or another by our speakers today. The ultimate answers, however, will not be forthcoming until years in the future.

If I could have the first slide, please. I'm not going to elaborate on Dr. Collins's questions for I think they'll be self-explanatory. Will the therapeutic promise of genetics be realized? Will we successfully shepherd new genetic information from research into clinical practice? Can health care providers and the public become genetically literate in time? Will the benefits of advances in genetics be available only to a privileged few? Will we arrive at consensus about the limits of genetic technology for trait enhancement? Will effective legislative solutions to genetic discrimination be found? And finally, will we succumb to genetic determinism?

I don't know how many of you may have read an article in last week's U.S. News and World Report where it was stated that they now have a genetic explanation for everything, including our behavior. And further, will we use that as an excuse to say that we have no control over our future for our genes have determined what we're going to be and how we're going to behave.

So these are the questions that Dr. Collins has posed and, as I stated earlier, each will be touched on in one way or another in today's presentations.

I'd like to close my introductory comments with a quote from Sir William Osler because I think it's appropriate for our program today:
To wrest from nature the secrets which have perplexed philosophers in all ages, to track to their sources the causes of diseases, to correlate the vast stores of knowledge that they may be quickly available for the prevention and cure of disease; these are our ambitions.

Well, if Osler were alive today, I think even he would be surprised at the degree to which we have achieved the ambition he enunciated years ago.

As you know, we select a moderator for the program each year-someone who is not an expert in the field, but who has an understanding and appreciation for the theme, whatever it happens to be. This year we have selected Hans Mark. I think all of you know Hans as well as his background.

Hans is a bit of a Renaissance person. He is not a genetics expert, but by virtue of his own personal experience with NASA in space exploration, he has an appreciation of the importance and relevance of projects of this kind. We're delighted to have Hans serve as our moderator today and, at this point, I would like to turn the program over to him. Please welcome Hans Mark, one of our own.