HUMAN GENOME: Federal Government Announces Important Milestone
HHS Secretary Donna Shalala announced Tuesday that the Human Genome Project reached a milestone: the decoding of 1 billion units of genetic information, the Washington Post reports. Managers of the project celebrated yesterday at the National Academy of Sciences to mark the milestone that was actually reached on Nov. 17 when the billionth unit was deposited in GenBank, the Internet database that stores the results of the project. Shalala praised the researchers, saying that "we will better understand the miracle of how a single cell develops into a unique human being." The entire human gene map is estimated to contain about 3.2 billion base pairs of genetic information, and researchers believe they are "about a third of the way toward finishing a draft gene map." Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, said the draft should be finished by next spring. The project was on a "leisurely course" to completion in 2005, when several private firms, most notably Celera Genomics Corp., said they would unravel the entire human genome faster than the Human Genome Project. The competition "sparked a notable acceleration in the public venture." Shalala said, "We will better understand the history of life on earth. And we will better understand the history of what binds us all together as human beings" (Gillis, 11/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.