The Gift-Wrapped Genome

For other articles on sequencing see THE SCIENTIST, October 20, pp. 11-12. Mapping the human genome (let's call it MHG!), is being popularized as the attention-focusing Big Science Project for the 1990s. Like another technological big fix in the military field, MHG! means different things to different people, which is why much of the debate is at cross-purposes. One extreme technocratic version (or is it a caricature?) would suspend all other DNA research in favor of a single centralized machine

Joshua Lederberg
Nov 16, 1986

For other articles on sequencing see THE SCIENTIST, October 20, pp. 11-12.

Mapping the human genome (let's call it MHG!), is being popularized as the attention-focusing Big Science Project for the 1990s. Like another technological big fix in the military field, MHG! means different things to different people, which is why much of the debate is at cross-purposes.

One extreme technocratic version (or is it a caricature?) would suspend all other DNA research in favor of a single centralized machine. For a few billion dollars-"hardly the cost of an aircraft carrier"-this center could displace all of the diverse laboratories doing molecular biology, and provide a computer tape with the 3X109 characters of the human genome. I am not sure just who is espousing this version today, but something like it may be in some minds, and perhaps it should be analyzed.

MHG! is a striking metaphor that tells us...

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