It’s only been 13 years since scientists at National Human Genome Research Institute finished sequencing the human genome, but now another group of American scientists are calling for a 10-year project aimed at creating their own human genomes from scratch.
The proposal for the project, known as the ‘Human Genome Project—Write’, was published in Science last Thursday and announced the group’s intention to launch the project this year with the $100-million it will secure in funding.
As argued in the paper written by 26 prominent geneticists, HGP-Write is the logical continuation of the Human Genome Project, which successfully sequenced 99.9 percent of all the DNA humans have in common, otherwise known as the human genome.
“Genome synthesis is a logical extension of the genetic engineering tools that have been used safely within the biotech industry for ~40 years and have provided important societal benefits,” the authors wrote in the paper.
“HGP-write will require public involvement and consideration of ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) from the start. Responsible innovation requires more than ELSI, though, and involves identifying common goals important to scientists and the wider public through timely and detailed consultation among diverse stakeholders.”
The ostensible aim of the project would be to reduce the cost of engineering large DNA sequences in labs by over 1000 times in 10 years.
This could lead to important biotech innovations like growing human organs that could be used for transplants, and cell lines that are engineered to be resistant to viruses and cancers.