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Other Anticipated Benefits of Genetic Research

Genomics and Its Impact on Science and Society: The Human Genome Project and Beyond

Technologies, Resources Having Major Impacts
Rapid progress in genome science and a glimpse into its potential applications have spurred observers to predict that biology will be the foremost science of the 21st Century. Technology and resources generated by the Human Genome Project and other genomic research already are having major impacts on research across the life sciences. Doubling in size in 10 years, the biotechnology industry generated 191,000 direct jobs and 535,000 indirect jobs in 2001. Revenues for that year totaled more than $20 billion directly and $28.5 billion indirectly.*

A list of some current and potential applications of genome research follows. More studies and public discussion are required for eventual validation and implementation of some of these uses (see p. 8).

Molecular Medicine

  • Improve diagnosis of disease
  • Detect genetic predispositions to disease
  • Create drugs based on molecular information
  • Use gene therapy and control systems as drugs
  • Design “custom drugs” based on individual genetic profiles

Microbial Genomics

  • Rapidly detect and treat pathogens (disease-causing microbes) in clinical practice
  • Develop new energy sources (biofuels)
  • Monitor environments to detect pollutants
  • Protect citizenry from biological and chemical warfare
  • Clean up toxic waste safely and efficiently

Risk Assessment

  • Evaluate the health risks faced by individuals who may be exposed to radiation (including low levels in industrial areas) and to cancer-causing chemicals and toxins

Bioarchaeology, Anthropology, Evolution, and Human Migration

  • Study evolution through germline mutations in lineages
  • Study migration of different population groups based on maternal genetic inheritance
  • Study mutations on the Y chromosome to trace lineage and migration of males
  • Compare breakpoints in the evolution of mutations with ages of populations and historical events

DNA Identification

  • Identify potential suspects whose DNA may match evidence left at crime scenes
  • Exonerate persons wrongly accused of crimes
  • Identify crime, catastrophe, and other victims
  • Establish paternity and other family relationships
  • Identify endangered and protected species as an aid to wildlife officials (could be used for prosecuting poachers)
  • Detect bacteria and other organisms that may pollute air, water, soil, and food
  • Match organ donors with recipients in transplant programs
  • Determine pedigree for seed or livestock breeds
  • Authenticate consumables such as caviar and wine

Agriculture, Livestock Breeding, and Bioprocessing

  • Grow disease-, insect-, and drought-resistant crops
  • Breed healthier, more productive, disease-resistant farm animals
  • Grow more nutritious produce
  • Develop biopesticides
  • Incorporate edible vaccines into food products
  • Develop new environmental cleanup uses for plants like tobacco


The online presentation of this publication is a special feature of the Human Genome Project Information Web site.

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