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October 17, 2001

Medical Research in the 21st Century

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorJody W.ZylkeMD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2001;286(15):1833-1835. doi:10.1001/jama.286.15.1833

To the Editor: The spectacular revelations of the human genome project promise precise "magic bullets" to cure a range of human diseases. Many of these opportunities are described in the these issue of JAMA devoted to opportunities for medical research in the 21st century (February 7, 2001). The brilliance of the prospects, however, may eclipse many more pragmatic but nonetheless important considerations.

For instance, in their article on burden of disease, Dr Michaud and colleagues1 list automobile crashes as the ninth leading cause of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in 1990 and project that this will be the third leading cause by the year 2020. The projections may underestimate the relative importance of trauma as a cause of DALYs if some of the sophisticated research pays off with real cures for heart disease, cerebrovascular accidents, and cancer.