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January 8, 1992

Mapping the Code: The Human Genome Project and the Choices of Modern Science

Author Affiliations

Lincoln, Neb

JAMA. 1992;267(2):299-300. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480020109045

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On September 8, 1991, Dr James Watson was interviewed on the progress of the Human Genome Project. One statement alluded to the fact that there are probably 250000 human genes, rather than the 100 000 of pre-Human Genome Project dogma.

This is just one of the new findings from the Human Genome Project, a vast undertaking by molecular biologists. The biological sciences have never really had a "Big Science" event like other areas, for example, astrophysics and space exploration. This is probably because the biological sciences are so diverse and, therefore, not amenable to an overarching project. However, one of those eclectic areas, molecular biology, has emerged and given biological scientists the foundation for an important contribution—defining all the genes of the human species.

"a 'Big Science' event"

The early price tag of the project was about a dollar per base pair, ie, $3 billion. One might think this is