Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is working on a new four-part genetic genealogy series for PBS called “Faces of America”, expected to air in 2010. Unlike the previous African American Lives series, the latest work will examine the genetic ancestry of Americans from all walks of life. From the press release (“THIRTEEN, Kunhardt McGee Productions and Inkwell Films, in Production on New PBS Series, Faces of America“):
Global in scope, Faces of America will look beyond the black experience to explore American identity with guests who are Asian, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Syrian, West Indian, and Native American. Joining Professor Gates in this new series are poet Elizabeth Alexander, who composed and read the poem at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, chef Mario Batali, comedian and television personality Stephen Colbert, writer Junot Diaz, writer Louise Erdrich, writer Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, cellist Yo Yo Ma, writer and director Mike Nichols, former monarch of Jordan Queen Noor, actress Meryl Streep, and Olympic gold medalist and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.
An interesting mix of celebrities! In addition to peering into the genomes of others, the series will follow Professor Gates and his father as their ENTIRE genomes are sequences and analyzed (to the extent currently possible):
Too expensive for popular use, to date, less than 20 people have had their entire genome sequenced. Working with Illumina and Knome and geneticists at the Broad Institute and the Harvard Medical School, Faces of America will make medical history by filming the sequencing and interpretation of the genomes – six billion base pairs – of Professor Gates and his father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr. In addition, each guest will undergo dense genotyping to trace their father’s line, mother’s line and their admixture (that is, their percentages of European, Asian, Native American, and African ancestry).
Here’s a link to a video of Professor Gates with Colbert from February 3, 2009. I should also note that Professor Gates just recently won the 2009 Ralph Lowell Award for his work with public television to share the genetic genealogy and history of African Americans with viewers.