The human genome at 20: how biology’s most-hyped breakthrough led to anticlimax and arrests

Press/Media: Articles in 'The Conversation'


When President Bill Clinton took to a White House lectern 20 years ago to announce that the human genome sequence had been completed, he hailed the breakthrough as “the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind”. The scientific achievement was placed on par with the moon landings.

It was hoped that having access to the sequence would transform our understanding of human disease within 20 years, leading to better treatment, detection and prevention. The famous journal article that shared our genetic ingredients with the world, published in February 2001, was welcomed as a “Book of Life” that could revolutionise medicine by showing which of our genes led to which illnesses.

But in the two decades since, the sequence has underwhelmed. The potential of our newfound genetic self-knowledge has not been fulfilled. Instead, what has emerged is a new frontier in genetic research: new questions for a new batch of researchers to answer.

Period19 Feb 2021

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