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Revolution Postponed: Why the Human Genome Project Has Been Disappointing

The Human Genome Project has failed so far to produce the medical miracles that scientists promised. Biologists are now divided over what, if anything, went wrong—and what needs to happen next
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Bryan Christie

A decade ago biologists and nonbiologists alike gushed with optimism about the medical promise of the $3-billion Human Genome Project. In announcing the first rough draft of the human “book of life” at a White House ceremony in the summer of 2000, President Bill Clinton predicted that the genome project would “revolutionize the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of most, if not all, human diseases.”

A year earlier Francis S. Collins, then head of the National Human Genome Research Institute and perhaps the project’s most tireless enthusiast, painted a grand vision of the “personalized medicine” likely to emerge from the project by the year 2010: genetic tests indicating a person’s risk for heart disease, cancer and other common maladies would be available, soon to be followed by preventives and therapies tailored to the individual.

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