University Celebrates National DNA Day

National DNA Day is April 25. The day celebrates a most remarkable molecule, one that holds the instructions for life: DNA.

DNA Day was created in 2003 to commemorate the completion of the Human Genome Project and the 50th anniversary of James Watson’s and Francis Crick’s discovery of DNA’s double helical structure.

Washington University played a key role in the Human Genome Project, an international effort to assemble in order the 3 billion letters that make up the genetic code. The University will celebrate DNA Day with a student poster session and a keynote address by Elaine Mardis, Ph.D., co-director of the University’s Genome Sequencing Center (GSC). A reception will follow. (See schedule below.) The public is invited to attend the events.

GSC scientists also will mark the day by visiting McKinley Classical Junior Academy Middle School in St. Louis and giving demonstrations to students to show how DNA sequencing works.

At the DNA level, humans are more than 99 percent alike. But by zeroing in on minute differences in the genetic code, Washington University scientists and others hope to understand how genes play a common role in diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This information holds great promise for developing ways to prevent and treat many devastating diseases.

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which provides major funding for genomic research at Washington University, will host an online DNA chat on April 25. Staffed by NHGRI experts, the chat room will give the public a chance to talk in real time with some of the top minds in the field of genomics research.

Among those standing by to answer your questions will be NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., along with lab scientists, clinical researchers, genetic counselors, bioethicists and policy experts from across the institute. More information about the chat room is at

April 25 DNA Day Events

Cori and Erlanger auditoriums, McDonnell Sciences Building 1 – 2:45 p.m.

Graduate/undergraduate poster session 3 p.m.

Keynote Address, Elaine Mardis, Ph.D. “The Human Genome Sequence: A Foundation for Biological Inquiry” 4 p.m.

Reception in Seashell Lobby, sponsored by the GSC Outreach Group