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The Human Genome Project: Benefiting All Humanity

March 2000

"Later this year, researchers will complete the first draft of the entire human genome, the very blueprint of life. It is important for all our fellow Americans to recognize that federal tax dollars have funded much of this research, and that this and other wise investments in science are leading to a revolution in our ability to detect, treat, and prevent disease."

President Clinton
January 27, 2000
State of the Union Address

At today's Medals of Science and Technology awards ceremony, the President will announce that he and Prime Minister Tony Blair have agreed on a statement of principle to ensure that discoveries from the human genome are used to advance human health. Their joint statement, to be issued in the United States and the United Kingdom today, applauds researchers who have made their human genome sequence data freely available to the global scientific community and calls upon others to follow their lead. The statement also acknowledges the importance of intellectual property protection as an incentive for the development of important, new, gene-based health care products.


  • The United States and the United Kingdom are the leading partners in the Human Genome Project, the international effort to map and sequence the 3 billion "letters" and to locate and identify the roughly 100,000 genes that make up the human genetic code.

  • This project will revolutionize the practice of medicine, providing the means to custom tailor treatments to the needs of each patient, and prolong healthy life by predicting and preventing diseases.

  • Unencumbered access to the raw human sequence data will promote its use by scientists all over the world in their efforts to understand human biology and disease at the level of individual genes.

  • The single most important development in human biology in the short term will be the completion of the sequencing of the human genome. Government-funded research activities have made important contributions to this result. The private sector has also made significant advances in recent years.

  • The single biggest challenge to humankind will be to take this vast storehouse of information and rapidly develop new products to diagnose and treat human disease. That process will require continued support for government research. It will also require a suitable environment for the private sector to develop new products, including appropriate intellectual property protection.

The president's budget calls for a $1 billion increase for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to nearly $18.8 billion. These funds will support merit-based, peer-reviewed research, largely conducted by individual investigators. Biomedical research continues to pave the way toward better diagnostics, treatments and cures. Recent breakthroughs have led to techniques that hold promise for treating Parkinson's disease, diabetes, heart disease and many other debilitating disorders. As new health risks arise, prevention of disease also requires increased attention.

  • With the increase requested for FY 2001, NIH plans to focus on the following four themes: exploiting the power of genomics; reinvigorating clinical research; harnessing the expertise of allied scientific and engineering disciplines that contribute to biomedical research; and reducing disparities in health.

  • The increase will support research in areas such as diabetes, brain disorders, cancer, genetic medicine, disease prevention strategies and development of an AIDS vaccine.

Research & Development (R&D) Budget - a Bold Course of Strategic Growth and Prosperity Through Discovery. The President and the Vice President remain unwavering in their support for science and technology as crucial investments in our future. These investments enable our nation to compete aggressively in the global marketplace, protect our environment and manage our natural resources in a sustainable manner, safeguard our national security from emerging threats, and spur the technological innovation that has contributed so much to our economic prosperity and quality of life.

The FY 2001 budget for R&D continues the important R&D trends established by the President and Vice President:

  • This is the eighth consecutive year that the President and Vice President have proposed increased investments in civilian research and development. Civilian R&D is up 43 percent since they have taken office.

  • It boosts funding for basic research by 7 percent -- a $1.3 billion increase. Funding for basic research is up 52 percent since 1993.

  • R&D support to Universities increases 8 percent -- a $1.3 billion increase. R&D support to universities is up 53 percent since 1993.

  • And perhaps most importantly, this budget presents a balanced R&D portfolio, which recognizes the interdependence among the scientific disciplines. Gains in one field are often dependent on advances in others.


Benefiting All Humanity. The Human Genome Project (HGP), an international effort formally begun in October 1990, was planned to last 15 years, but rapid technological advances have accelerated the expected completion date by at least two years. The project's goals [ornl.gov] are to discover all of the approximate 100,000 human genes (the human genome) and make them accessible for further biological study and to determine the complete sequence of the 3 billion DNA subunits (bases). As part of the HGP, parallel studies are being carried out on selected model organisms such as the bacterium E. coli to help develop the technology and interpret human gene function. The HGP is also the first large scientific undertaking to address the ethical, legal and social issues that may arise from such a project. The National Institutes of Health's National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the Department of Energy's Human Genome Program together make up the U.S. Human Genome Project, the world's largest centrally coordinated biology research project ever undertaken. The U.K.'s Wellcome Trust, a private philanthropy, also contributes to the global initiative and supports one of the five principal large-scale human genome sequencing centers.

Longer Lives and Better Health. The project will reap enormous benefits for humankind, some that we can anticipate and others that will surprise us. Biologists and researchers will have access to detailed DNA information that is key to understanding the structure, organization and function of DNA in chromosomes. Genome maps of other organisms will provide the basis for comparative studies that are often critical to understanding more complex biological systems. Information generated and technologies developed will revolutionize future biological explorations. Technology and resources generated by the HGP and other genomics research are already having a major impact on research across the life sciences. For example, the HGP has produced detailed maps that can be used to help pinpoint genes associated with particular diseases, leading to better treatment and prevention methods. A prime example is that families at risk of hereditary colon cancer can now be screened and lessen their chances of dying from this illness with surveillance and dietary measures. The potential for commercial development of genomics research also presents U.S. industry with a wealth of opportunities, and sales of DNA-based products and technologies in the biotechnology industry are projected to exceed $45 billion by 2009.

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Last Updated: March 17, 2012