It will also shed light on humanity's shared evolutionary history. "We will learn some more about…the period of a few hundred thousand years or so in which modern humans evolved before they spread from Africa," Durbin says. "This can be studied by looking for evidence of selection in the pattern of variation seen in the genome."
It is already clear that 99 percent of DNA is the same in all humans. But by mapping variations in the other 1 percent, the 1,000 Genomes Project may help reveal the genetic underpinnings of some disease. "Once you have those elements fingered, then you can figure out how to do therapies," Brooks says. "It's not going to tell you the causal ones, but it's going to give you the list of suspects."