Thursday, November 5, 2009

Human Genome Project NIH Watson

I left out this post by mistake and it should have come before today's,

The Human Genome Project is the most important scientific advancement that we have made in this century. It was a huge undertaking sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the National Institute of Health(NIH) with involvement of a number of other countries as well Incredibly by 2003 all the genes in human DNA were identified as well as the sequence of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA.This has enormous implications in a wide variety of areas but in medicine it has allowed examination of specific genes that may be involved in a number of diseases, including psychiatric disorders. One of the goals of the project was to address the ethical, legal, and social issues that arise from this project. It didn't tale long for controversy to emerge


J.Venter, a biologist at NIH, began the process of requesting patents. He had not sequenced whole genes but rather fragments of DNA referred to as EST (Expressed Sequence Tags). I have tried to understand what exactly is an EST but it is way over my head. By the early 90's he had requested over 7,000 patents for different EST's. In effect he was trying with NIH to basically patent the human gene which would be a disaster for science. James Watson opposed this policy and had to resign as Director of the project as NIH was planning on continuing the patenting process. The controversy eventually was resolved when the US Patent Office rejected all the applications.


So as much as there is present controversy regarding James Watson he did lose the chance to complete The Human Genome Project by standing up for scientific principles over profit.



Thought for the day

Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing.

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