Title: Human Genome Project | Credit: © GRL

Human Genome Project celebrations


The sequence of the human genome was completed in 2003. The 2m long string of DNA found in nearly all human cell contains the instructions for every physical aspect of our bodies, from the colour of our eyes to the intricate lacing of our blood vessels.

The publically-funded project was an international collaboration and took ten years to complete. Part way through the project it turned into a race to the finish line due to the activities of a commercial competitor in the USA. The Sanger team, led by John Sulston and Michael Morgan (pictured above celebrating with their team) wanted to make the science open and free to all before their rivals over the pond, who were intent on patenting the genome.

“Ever so often in the history of human endeavour, there comes a breakthrough that takes humankind across a frontier into a new era. … today’s announcement is such a breakthrough, a breakthrough that opens the way for massive advancement in the treatment of cancer and hereditary diseases. And that is only the beginning.”

– Prime Minister Tony Blair 26 June 2000, on the announcement, together with the President of the United States of America, of the first draft of the human genome.