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 Deciphering Nature's Alphabet  
Deciphering Nature's Alphabet celebrates major scientific achievements from the discovery of DNA to the mapping of the human genome. Through interviews with key players in genetics, each film explores a distinct historical period, its scientific breakthroughs, and how they set the stage for the next phase of discovery. This project is a compilation of five short films shot and mastered in high-definition. These films were screened as interstitial material, bracketed by lectures from key scientists at the Scientific Symposium on April 15, 2003 and were called the “jewel in the crown” of the symposium. In addition, the films will be made available to high school and college science and history classes in connection with NHGRI's satellite feed to schools.

Film One: How Does DNA Work?

Synopsis: This film describes the discovery of the mechanisms by which DNA works in the cell. Topics include; how does it carry out the two essential functions of a genetic molecule: replication so genetic information can be transmitted to the next generation and the central dogma, how does DNA control the production of proteins. Key interviews: Sydney Brenner and Matthew Meselson.

Film Two: Manipulating DNA

Synopsis: This film describes the early methods for manipulating DNA, once the basics of its structure and function were worked out, including isolating the first bacterial gene, the development of a way to map DNA with RFLPs and a way to determine the sequence of the nucleotides in the DNA double helix. Key interviews: Jonathan Beckwith, Walter Gilbert and David Botstein.

Film Three: Developing Genetic Tools

Synopsis: This film describes the conversion of these new DNA handling technologies into a viable business model that puts biology on the same plane as physics – at least in terms of products it can produce. In the process, new drugs become available to help patients; the method of drug discovery is revolutionized. At the same time, genetic engineering reaches the public consciousness for the first time, but the presence of ELSI concerns continues to make its presence felt. Key interviews: Herb Boyer, Walter Gilbert, Sydney Brenner, Robert Sinsheimer, Nancy Wexler, David Botstein.

Film Four: Imaging the Genome

Synopsis: This film describes the launch of the Human Genome Project, how the idea emerged from the growing genetic engineering capacity, the technologies, politics and finances of genomics. Key interviews: Lee Hood, Sen. Pete Domenici, Robert Sinsheimer and Patricia King.

Film Five: Impact of the Human Genome Project

Synopsis: This film describes the impact the Human Genome Project is having on basic research, medical advances and the application of genetic technologies to patients and families. Key interviews: Gerry Rubin, Nancy Wexler, Craig Venter, Robert Sinsheimer, David Baltimore, Eric Lander and Francis Collins.
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