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Timelines: 2003

Prev : Next The Complete Works of the Human Genome Project


Thirteen-year effort comes to a close
After thirteen years of tireless work, the human genome is complete and the Human Genome Project comes to a close. Dr. Robert Waterson, a leading sequencer on the Project explains the significance of the Project at a press conference at the National Institutes of Health declaring, “We have before us the instruction set that carries us from the one-cell egg through adulthood to the grave.” The project concludes on the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA and two years ahead of schedule, an amazing feat considering the task. The Project aimed to discover all 20,000-25,000 human genes, map them for use in important biological research, and determine the complete sequence of the 3 billion subunits of DNA. A large portion of the project involved ordering and orienting thousands of short segments of DNA so researchers can easily locate a particular gene.

The collected genome data, available for free on genetic data banks, is immediately put to use by the scientific and medical community. In 2007, researchers studying genetic variations associated with breast cancer identify six new sites of variation in the genome, a discovery that furthers researchers’ understanding of breast cancer’s “biology” and possible new treatments. Researchers in Britain that same year identify DNA variations that underlie seven of the most common diseases including bipolar disorder, coronary artery disease, Crohn’s disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, and Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Analysis of these common disease “pathways” may lead to better drugs and more effective treatments. In 2007, DNA pioneer James Watson symbolically ushers in/foreshadows a new era of personalized medicine when he is ceremoniously presented with a DVD recording of his own genome. Commenting on the experience, Watson states succinctly, “I am thrilled to see my genome.”

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