NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Private Group Mapping Human DNA

May 10, 1998

A pioneer in genetic sequencing and a private company plan to decipher the entire DNA of humans, far faster and cheaper than the government. If successful, the venture -- projected to take three years -- could make redundant the government's $3 billion program to sequence the human genome by 2005.

  • The private entities involved are the Institute for Genomic Sciences in Rockville, Md., and Applied Biosystems, a division of Perkin-Elmer Corp. in Connecticut.
  • The proposed new company envisions completing the human genome project far sooner and 10 times more cheaply than the National Institutes of Health.
  • The goal of the principals is to sequence the three billion letters of human DNA within three years -- at a cost of $150 million to $200 million.
  • The $3 billion federal program is now at the half-way point of its 15-year course -- and only 3 percent of the genome has been sequenced.

Until now, the government's strategy has been to divide the task and assign parts to various universities. But serious doubts have arisen as to whether the universities can meet the target date of 2005.

Once deciphered, the genome is likely to be seen as the foundation of human biology. Moreover, it is the object of intense scientific and commercial interest, since it would yield a trove of information about human physiology and disease -- as well as the possibility of correcting the errors in human programming that cause genetic disease.

Observers say Congress might ask why it should continue to finance the human genome project through NIH and the Department of Energy if the new company is going to finish first.

Source: Nicholas Wade, "Scientist's Plan: Map All DNA Within 3 Years," New York Times, May 10, 1998.


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