중앙데일리

Government Plans Necessary in Genome Project

June 26,2000
The human blueprint has finally been revealed. The Human Genome Project, which has been carried out over 13 years with $3 billion investment, is finally complete. As the 3 billion pairs of DNA sequences have been deciphered in great detail, humanity has finally uncovered the key to transforming our genetic fate determined before birth.

The dream made possible by this advance consists not only of curing diseases including cancer, but also extending the average life span by manipulating genes controlling ageing.

We would like to praise the 10,000 scientists of 18 countries who contributed to this remarkable accomplishment.

But the completion of the Human Genome Project also presents us with two problems for resolution before we move forward.

First, the value of this science must be determined by the people who will use it in the end. Until now the Human Genome Project has been led by scientists. However, the public must fully participate in determining policies including the direction of research. Surely no one will argue that difficult diseases must be tackled with the help of this new information. However, meddling with inherited biological characteristics such as height and skin color is different. The agreement of the public is required when considering whether shortness or dark skin tones are to be considered inferior genes, and if so whether it is acceptable that these 'inferior' genes be weeded out artificially.

Second, we must concentrate national resources in genome research. The results of the Human Genome Project have been made freely available through the Internet. However, there's no such thing as a free ride. These countries are confident that even the full disclosure of the genome will not rob them of their advantage. The more advanced nations, including the United States, may have hidden intentions, and will likely make few concessions in the future through patenting. Biotechnology, the application of genome technologies, is the most promising industry of the next generation. But this technology differs from Information Technology, in which a single idea can lead to great success. Biotechnology can only be fruitful with the support of years of research.

At this point, we would like to emphasize the role of the government. The interests of our society in biotechnology, triggered by the fever in bio-ventures, must not end with the increase in stock prices of venture firms. The government must provide long-term plans to take over opportunities in the market that the advanced nations have missed. The government must avoid overlapping bio-venture investments with private companies. It must put its effort into promoting basic research to benefit our nation in the long term, even if it yields few immediate profits.

It is also important to educate talented manpower and to assure the reinforced research infrastructure in order to help scientists concentrate on genome research.


by Ki Sun-min




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