The human genome at 20: how biology’s most-hyped breakthrough led to anticlimax and arrests

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationNewspaper


When President Bill Clinton took to a White House lectern 20 years ago to announce that the human genome sequence had been completed, he hailed the breakthrough as “the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind”. The scientific achievement was placed on par with the moon landings.

It was hoped that having access to the sequence would transform our understanding of human disease within 20 years, leading to better treatment, detection and prevention. The famous journal article that shared our genetic ingredients with the world, published in February 2001, was welcomed as a “Book of Life” that could revolutionise medicine by showing which of our genes led to which illnesses.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
PublisherThe Conversation UK
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Alasdair Mackenzie receives funding from the BBSRC, Tenovus (Scotland) and Medical Research Scotland

Andreas Kolb does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


  • Human Genome Project
  • Gene sequencing
  • Genes
  • Human genome
  • Designer babies
  • Gene editing
  • Human gene editing


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