Antoine Danchin

The Delphic Boat What Genomes Tell Us Publication date : May 1, 1998

The promises held by genetic engineering and by the intervention into the human genome do not cease to fascinate. These promises include identifying the genes that transmit certain diseases, developing new types of vaccines, producing new medication, assisting in diagnosis, providing gene therapy, identifying criminals, and understanding the main movements of the evolutionary process. What are the fundamental scientific stakes involved in the human genome? What are the basic principles that will allow us to obtain complete knowledge of the chemical composition of certain living organisms? What are the conditions and international rivalries that will govern the outcome of genetic engineering? Antoine Danchin establishes a clear picture of the most important biological discovery of the late 20th century: he lists the rules that govern the genetic code, gives examples of the early intervention into whole genomes, and highlights the importance of the manner in which the various parts of an organism relate to one another. Finally, by showing us that life is beyond prediction, he demonstrates its infinite capacity to create the unexpected.

Antoine Danchin is the director of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the Institut Pasteur.