Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program
Human Genome News Archive Edition
In this issue...
HGP and the Private Sector
In the News
Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues
Web, Publications, Resources
Meeting Calendars & Acronyms
On the Shoulders of Giants: Private Sector Leverages HGP Successes
Data, Technologies Catalyze a New, High-Profile Life Sciences Industry
The deluge of data and related technologies generated by the Human Genome Project (HGP) and other genomic research presents a broad array of commercial opportunities. Seemingly limitless applications cross boundaries from medicine and food to energy and environmental resources, and predictions are that life sciences may become the largest sector in the U.S. economy.
Established companies are scrambling to retool, and many new ventures are seeking a role in the information revolution with DNA at its core. IBM, Compaq, DuPont, and major pharmaceutical companies are among those interested in the potential for targeting and applying genome data.
In the genomics corner alone, dozens of small companies have sprung up to sell information, technologies, and services to facilitate basic research into genes and their functions. These new entrepreneurs also offer an abundance of genomic services and applications, including additional databases with DNA sequences from humans, animals, plants, and microbes.
Other applications include gene fragments to use for drug development and target identification and evaluation, identification of candidate genes, and RNA expression information revealing gene activity. Products include protein profiles; particular genotypes associated with such specific medically important phenotypes as disease susceptibility and drug responsiveness; hardware, software, and reagents for DNA sequencing and other DNA-based tests; microarrays (DNA chips) containing tens of thousands of known DNA and RNA fragments for research or clinical use; and DNA analysis software.
Broader applications reaching into many areas of the economy include the following:
A Public Legacy
Scientific Infrastructure. The scientific foundation for a human genome initiative existed at the national laboratories before DOE established the first genome project in 1986. Besides expertise in a number of areas critical to genomic research, the laboratories had a long history of conducting large multidisciplinary projects.
Genomic Science and Pioneering Technology. GenBank, the world's DNA sequence repository, was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and later transferred to the National Library of Medicine. Chromosome-sorting capabilities developed at LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory enabled the development of DNA clone libraries representing the individual chromosomes. These libraries were a crucial resource in genome sequencing.
Sequencing Strategies. When the HGP was initiated, vital automation tools and high-throughput sequencing technologies had to be developed or improved. The cost of sequencing a single DNA base was about $10 then; today, sequencing costs have fallen about 100-fold to $.10 to $.20 a base and still are dropping rapidly.
DOE-funded enhancements to sequencing protocols, chemical reagents, and enzymes contributed substantially to increasing efficiencies. The commercial marketing of these reagents has greatly benefitted basic R&D, genome-scale sequencing, and lower-cost commercial diagnostic services.
Sequencing Technologies and Biological Resources. Other major factors in cost and time reduction are greatly improved sequencing instruments and efficient biological resources such as the following:
The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international 13-year effort, 1990 to 2003. Primary goals were to discover the complete set of human genes and make them accessible for further biological study, and determine the complete sequence of DNA bases in the human genome. See Timeline for more HGP history.
Published from 1989 until 2002, this newsletter facilitated HGP communication, helped prevent duplication of research effort, and informed persons interested in genome research.