Sitting around a table piled with seafood and wine, a group of scientists came up with an idea. It was the Fall of 2005, and the diners were from the DNA sequencing company 454 Life Sciences, celebrating the launch of the company's sequencing technology, the Genome Sequencer 20.

454 was established with the goal of making human genome sequencing an everyday technology, and that night the ambition seemed within reach. At the Stone House restaurant on the marina at Guildford, Connecticut, the company's founder Jonathan Rothberg, vice president of research and development Michael Egholm, and Richard Gibbs from the Baylor College of Medicine, who is on the 454 advisory board, paused to consider who to sequence first.

"One option we thought about was to sequence an everyday person, but then Richard Gibbs blurted out 'What about Jim Watson?' and we considered it for about two nanoseconds before agreeing," remembers Egholm....

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