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Genome for the people

Genome for the people


Corporate feudalism is hampering research, says an eminent geneticist

It has become a widespread belief that the mapping of the human genome will
lead to a new era of medicine. Shortly before the first drafts were published
with great fanfare in February, Francis Collins, the director of the US
National Genome Research Institute and a founder of the public-sector Human
Genome Project, laid out a vision of a future in which mankind will call on
unprecedented resources in the fight against disease.
By 2010, Collins predicted, scientists will have developed tests for dozens
of genetic illnesses. A decade further down the line, there will be
gene-based designer drugs for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and
schizophrenia. Cancer treatment will be transformed, and every patient will
be prescribed medicines that are tailored to his or her own genetic
fingerprint. In 30 years’ time most Britons will live to the age of 90, and
human beings will be able to manipulate their evolution by genetic

While some scientists quibble over the timescale of Collins’s prognosis, few
question the enormous potential of the genome to transform human life. Yet
eight months after the project’s success, many of its architects are raising
concerns about the scientists’ approach to realising its medical fruits.
They do not doubt the talent of the researchers in the field, and their
ability to break new ground in the applications of genetics. But they fear
that the profit motive has skewed priorities to an extent that will hold back
research. Worse, they feel that it will alienate a public already sceptical
of science, jeopardising our chances of exploiting the genome for the best.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,74-2001364295 ,00.html