Brussels, 14 Apr 2003
The International Human Genome Consortium announced on 14 April that they have successfully sequenced the human genome more than two years earlier than expected.
The UK based Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute made the largest single contribution of any organisation to the final sequence, carrying out nearly one third of the total work.
Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Professor Allan Bradley, said: 'Completing the human genome is a vital step on a long road, but the eventual health benefits could be phenomenal. Just one part of this work - the sequencing of chromosome 20 - has already accelerated the search for genes involved in diabetes, leukaemia and childhood eczema.'
Scientists from more than 120 countries have already made use of the draft sequence of the genome released in June 2000. The final 'gold standard' sequence, which scientists claim has an accuracy rating of 99.999 per cent, is expected to underpin biomedical research for decades to come.
When the human genome project was first announced, some believed that it would take as many as 20 years to complete, but advances in robotics and supercomputing have seen work finished in just under eight years since the plan was first outlined in 1995.
Of the achievement, Professor Bradley said: 'We shouldn't expect immediate major breakthroughs, but there is no doubt we have embarked on one of the most exciting chapters of the book of life.'
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