The articles on sequencing the human genome (THE SCIENTIST, October 20, pp. 11-12) were noteworthy not so much for the arguments they put forward in support of the project as for their failure to realistically assess the cost, need and impact of such a project. Certainly, one can scan DNA sequences with computers and determine open reading frames, enhancer sequences, RNA polymerase binding sites, etc. However, without supporting data, these determinations are purely hypothetical.

The magnitude of the project also needs to be put into perspective. While genomes the size of bacteriophage lambda (49,133 bp) have been determined with considerable effort, the sequence of the entire Escherichia coli chromosome (4 million bp) is still not available, let alone a complete physical map. Gilbert underestimates the problems and time it will take to generate the library of cosmids containing unique 40,000 base-pair inserts. DNA fragments of this size are...

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