The International Genome Sequencing Consortium celebrated the "essentially complete" human genome early this week in Bethesda, Maryland, although the sequence itself is due to be formally unveiled in May. Festivities for the finished sequence were designed to coincide, more or less, with the 50th anniversary of the elucidation of the structure of the DNA molecule, and the double-birthday bash became a backslapping Who's Who of the past half-century in molecular genetics.

Francis Collins director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), who helped to open the ceremonies Monday, eschewed comparisons to the creation of the Corvette, TV Guide, or marshmallow peeps, all of which share a 50-year anniversary in 2003, preferring to liken the achievement of sequencing the entire human genome to scaling Mount Everest. In addition to the 30,000-feet/30,000-gene parallel, he said, in both instances there were "a lot of white knuckles along the way."

In setting...

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