On June 26, in a trans-Atlantic news conference held by President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the two announced that the majority of the human genome has been successfully sequenced, a feat that has been compared to man first walking on the moon.
The biotechnology company Celera Genomics and the publicly funded Human Genome Project had been in competition for more than two years, as each tried to be the first to complete the rough draft.
Yet, both Francis Collins, University professor and head of the Human Genome Project, and Celera Chief Executive Officer J. Craig Venter joined together at the press conference to tell the world of their findings.
“Science is a voyage of exploration into the unknown. We are here today to celebrate a milestone along a truly unprecedented voyage, this one into ourselves,” Collins said at the press conference.
According to the Human Genome Project, a genome is all of the DNA in an organism, including the genes. The genes carry the proteins that determine what an organism looks like as well as how well the body is able to fight off disease.
DNA is made up of four chemicals, adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. These chemicals are repeated about three billion times within the human genome and the order of the chemicals is extremely important, as it is this order which makes each person different from the next.
Jack Dixon, Minor J Coon professor and chair of the biological chemistry division in the Medical School, compared the lack of information we had prior to the sequencing to a list of parts needed to build a car. “Scientists are like mechanics they must understand how things work. What the genome project provides us is all of the parts a complete list of everything in the car,” Dixon said.