Letter from Robert M. Cook-Deegan to Kenichi Matsubara
NOTE: One in a set of letters faxed to McKusick by Cook-Deegan.
Item is a photocopy.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (158,429 Bytes)
1989-09-26 (September 26, 1989)
Cook-Deegan, Robert M.
United States Congress. Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee
Osaka University. Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology
Original Repository: Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives. Victor Almon McKusick Collection
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Human Genome Project
Medical Genetics, Molecular Biology, and the Human Genome Project, 1980-2008
Letter from Kenichi Matsubara to Robert M. Cook-Deegan (August 17, 1989)
Letter from Robert M. Cook-Deegan to D. Allan Bromley (September 18, 1989)
26 September 1989
Dear Dr. Matsubara,
Thank you for your letter of 17 August. I apologize for the delay in replying, but I got your letter only yesterday because
the Senate Post Office sent the letter to OTA, which held it for several weeks and sent it back. You sent it to the correct
address, but the mail clerk here made a mistake.
I do not believe the problem in Moscow was the absence of a Japanese representative. Dr. Ikawa from Riken was there, and I
do not think he had a very good time, because others were asking him what was happening in Japan and he could only say that
he would know later.
Since my note to you, I have found several wrinkles in the history of US-Japan relations on genome research. I sincerely hope
that they can be ironed out. I have sent the attached letter to science office in the White House to point out potential problems
to the new science adviser, D. Allan Bromley. Since Dr. Wyngaarden is likely to work in that office, and he has long supported
US-Japan cooperation, perhaps the problems can be solved.
One problem came from discussion in April in Tokyo about the US-Japan Science and Technology Agreement. Japanese officials
had listed genome research number 5 on their list, but the US had left it off the list. Janet Dorigan of the White House science
office apparently said something to the effect of "the US does not want to cooperate with Japan on the genome project."
It was indeed agreed among NIH and DOE that such cooperation should not be part of that particular agreement for fear that
it would get bogged down in unnecessary politics and bureaucracy. Perhaps that judgement was in error. What is clear, however,
is that scientists in the US do not intend to dictate Japanese policy or to interfere with cooperation with Japan scientifically.
Quite to the contrary, they strongly support worldwide sharing of data and materials. There will undoubtedly be areas, such
as development of instrumentation, where international cooperation will be difficult, but the STA statement from Japan, OTA
and NRC reports in the US, and statements from Valencia and UNESCO make clear that there is complete agreement that map and
sequence data should be shared worldwide.
HUGO does indeed need funding from all developed nations. It is the only workable mechanism for international cooperation
at the scientific level, and some of the current confusion might have been avoided if HUGO had staff and were serving as the
international clearinghouse. HUGO now seems poised to receive funds from several governments and private sources in Europe
and North America. Is there a potential Japanese source of funding of Y20-30M/y or so for HUGO, either private or government?
HUGO does not need funds in the range you noted yet, but only enough to begin operation of a Tokyo office (for office space,
one or two staff, and a secretary). I will forward you letter to Dr. McKusick who would presumably write any solicitation
letters. I will also forward it to Dr. Watson for his information. Do you have any ideas about whom to approach for HUGO funding
other than Mombusho, STA, and Ministry of Health and Welfare, and MITT?
I quite agree that communications are a first-order problem that must be solved soon. I will be in Japan next July, and would
like to meet with you then if possible. Please let me know if there is any specific information you need or contacts I should
make before coming.
I think for the other first order problem is to support Japanese scientists in getting sufficient support for their research.
Obviously, the first step in doing so is to listen to Japanese scientists about how we could assist them. If there is anything
I can do, please let me know.
I also invite you to write up the details of the Japanese genome program for Genomics. Beginning with next month's issue,
special features describing various funding programs will begin to appear. I would like to have one on the Japanese efforts,
so our readers are aware of your efforts. Please let me know if this would be possible. You could involve Dr. Ikawa, Dr. Watanabe,
Dr. Wada, Dr. Soeda, Dr. Shimizu, or any other person or persons you wish.
You asked about the structure of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. They are having a hearing in several weeks
on international efforts on the genome project. The committee "writes the rules" for the National Science Foundation
and the part of the Department of Energy that supports genome research. It gives direction to the agencies about the priorities
Congress perceives to be important. That particular committee does not have authority over NIH, and it has no funding authority.
(Funding comes from a separate set of appropriation committees.) The committee has been quite interested in genome projects
from the beginning. They are quite concerned about US economic competitiveness as well, however, and have been concerned about
international technology transfer. I do not know what the focus of their hearing will be, but I would guess that US-Japan
relations will be a topic. Perhaps your embassy will want to send a representative. I suggested to them that they invite you
to testify, but I do not know if they followed that suggestion.
I hope we can quickly work to improve US-Japan relations on the human genome. This is far too important and long-term a project
to let it become a focus for controversy.