Drawing the Map of Life: Inside the Human Genome Project

Drawing the Map of Life: Inside the Human Genome Project

Drawing the Map of Life: Inside the Human Genome Project

Drawing the Map of Life: Inside the Human Genome Project

Excerpt

Ten years ago, in the East Room of the White House, U.S. President Bill Clinton celebrated the completion of a “most wondrous map” of the DNA that makes up the human genome. He compared it to the map of the vast American West that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark presented to Thomas Jefferson in the White House nearly two centuries earlier. This book outlines the events leading to that ceremony and chronicles the torrent of efforts since then to fill in the genomic map and make sense of it.

This narrative of the human genome project and its consequences appears just as commercial firms are preparing to sequence the entire DNA of tens of thousands of people—only ten years after scientists managed to spell out the order of the adenines, thymines, cytosines, and guanines of just one human. The history sketched here is recent, vast, and exploding. The pages ahead summarize a continuing revolution that began in fundamental biology and now, more and more, is entering our lives to create a genomic age. It is one of the greatest positive achievements of our scientific civilization.

This book does not focus on what ought to be happening or might happen in a still-hidden future but instead concentrates on what has happened and is happening. Its fundamental question is, How did we get here?

In a limited space, only a few major topics can be explored. The story begins with the creation of the techniques and tools that enabled the genome project to begin. As attention to human genetic diseases rapidly grew, the project was organized in the late 1980s amid turmoil . . .

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