Statement By Donna E. Shalala

Secretary of Health and Human Services

Regarding the First Complete Sequencing of a Human Chromosome

December 1999

Secretary Donna Shalala:

Today we mark yet another important milestone in our journey to unravel the mysteries of how a single cell develops into a unique human being. Scientists in England, the United States and Japan, working under the umbrella of the ambitious international Human Genome Project, have unraveled the DNA code of an entire human chromosome. Their sequence of the 33 million DNA letters of chromosome 22 represents the longest continuous stretch of DNA code ever to be deciphered.

This achievement follows on the heels of another major accomplishment of the Human Genome Project: the accumulation of one billion DNA letters, or base pairs, of the entire human genome, which is spread over 23 pairs of chromosomes.

Today's announcement is especially exciting because we can now see many future milestones that will occur with increasing speed and more chromosomes whose DNA code will be completely sequenced, until the entire human genome is finished and freely and readily accessible to everyone by the year 2003 or sooner.

More than 200 scientists contributed to the sequencing of human chromosome 22. I congratulate all of them for their dedication and ingenuity and for making all their data freely available to anyone in the world with access to the Internet.

In fact, all of the DNA sequences produced by the Human Genome Project are accessible through the public database GenBank [], which is operated by the National Institutes of Health. As each new piece of DNA code is deciphered, it is added to the database, giving scientists worldwide an ever-growing repository of data. As a result, our progress in mapping the entire human genome continues to accelerate.

This accomplishment is a foreshadowing of the knowledge that will be revealed when all the human chromosomes are spelled out by the Human Genome Project in the coming months and years."


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Last updated: March 16, 2012