Karen Miga discusses the future of equitable genomics research with Clinton, Bono

Left to right: former President Bill Clinton, Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Ghebreyesus, UCSC Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Engineering Karen Miga, and U2 lead singer Bono.

UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Engineering and Associate Director for Human Pangenomics at the UCSC Genomics Institute Karen Miga delivered remarks at the 2022 Clinton Global Initiative meeting, which gathered global leaders in New York City to discuss solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. In a closing plenary session, Miga joined former President Bill Clinton, U2 lead singer Bono, and Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus to talk about the greatest health challenges and opportunities the world is currently facing. 

Miga spoke on her achievements co-leading the Telomere-to-Telomere consortium to fully sequence a human genome, finally completing the human genome project that was funded – and thought complete – during the Clinton administration. She explained the landmark scientific feat by comparing the human genome to the book of life, and her work as reading the final missing chapter, with information to help us understand human health, evolution, and the functioning of cells.  

In remarks which Bono called “stunning,” she discussed the pioneering work done at UC Santa Cruz to develop the technology that has enabled these new discoveries, and the importance of making sure people around the world have the access, skills, and training to use it, calling access to genomic information a fundamental human right. 

“It should be humbling to us, as well as incredibly empowering, that these mysteries are being unlocked,” Clinton said. “We should all become dedicated to an inclusive approach to biomedical research and its benefits being properly distributed.”

Miga emphasized the need for more equitable genomics research, an effort which she is pioneering through leadership of the ongoing human pangenome project, which aims to create a new reference genome that reflects the diversity of humanity. As the field uses a reference genome to identify variation and create treatments based on those differences, this pangenome effort can make it possible to create precision medicine and treatments designed for the specific needs of populations whose genomic variations were not previously represented in scientific resources.  

“Having this type of infrastructure and support, which we lack now, could be a new legacy for the future and our children,” Miga said.

To watch Miga’s remarks and the rest of the plenary panel, visit this link: https://www.clintonfoundation.org/clinton-global-initiative-september-2022-annual-meeting/ Miga’s panel begins at 35:15.