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The Human Genome Project: Research Tactics and Economic Strategies*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 January 2009

Alexander Rosenberg
Affiliation:
Philosophy, University of Georgia

Extract

In the Museum of Science and Technology in San Jose, California, there is a display dedicated to advances in biotechnology. Most prominent in the display is a double helix of telephone books stacked in two staggered spirals from the floor to the ceiling twenty-five feet above. The books are said to represent the current state of our knowledge of the eukaryotic genome: the primary sequences of DNA polynucleotides for the gene products which have been discovered so far in the twenty years since cloning and sequencing the genome became possible.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Social Philosophy and Policy Foundation 1996

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References

1 Molecular biologists are sensitive to the fact that calling 95 percent of the human genome “junk DNA” undercuts the rationale for sequencing the whole genome. As a result, some are suggesting that the scientific community was over-hasty in coming to the unanimous conclusion that DNA sequences with no known possible function are “nonsense.”

2 Watson, James B., “Looking Forward,” Gene, vol. 135 (1993), pp. 309–15.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

3 Collins, Francis and Galas, David, “A New Five Year Plan for the U.S. Human Genome Project,” Science, vol. 262 (1993), p. 46.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

4 Roberts, Leslie, “Taking Stock of the Genome Project,” Science, vol. 262 (1993), p. 21.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed It is worth noting that unless the 1 percent error areas are identified, the entire genome will have to be resequenced to locate the areas to be double-checked.

5 In particular, two discoveries make this procedure possible. A viral enzyme, reverse transcriptase, has been isolated, which will build a complementary DNA chain onto a single-stranded DNA or RNA template. Polymerase chain reactions, chemical processes which can be fully automated, enable another enzyme to build up vast numbers of copies of a sequence of DNA bases quickly and cheaply.

6 See Arrow, Kenneth, The Economics of Information (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1984), pp. 142–43.Google Scholar

7 For further discussion, see Hirshleifer, Jack and Riley, John G., The Analytics of Uncertainty and Information (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), ch. 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

8 Eisenberg, Rebecca S., “Patent Rights in the Human Genome Project” in Annas, George J. and Elias, Sherman, Gene Mapping (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 227.Google Scholar See also Sgaramella, V., “Lawyers' Delights and Geneticists' Nightmares: At Forty, the Double Helix Shows Some Wrinkles,” Gene, vol. 135 (1993), pp. 299302.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

9 Eisenberg, , “Patent Rights in the Human Genome Project,” p. 227.Google Scholar

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