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The Human Genome Project

DNA Structure, Mapping and Sequencing
Benefits and Ethical Issues

Welcome to this web site!

On this website, I'll introduce you to the concepts of the Human Genome Project and highlight important information such as the composition of DNA and the ethical issues concerning this project.

In October of 1990, the Human Genome Project (HGP) was officially launched. It was a 13 year effort sponsored by two main forces, the National Institues of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy (DOE). The project was a collabortation with an international scope. Many countries, including Canada, developed human genome research programs.
A genome is all of the DNA (deoxribonucleic acid) contained in the cells of an organism. DNA is made up of base pairs  of phosphate molecules, sugar molecules and one of four nucleic bases. It's the order of these base pairs that code for genes.




The HCG's main focus was mapping and identifying the sequences of the 20,000-25,000 genes in the human body. The goals outlined for the Human Genome Project were:
Project Goals
  • Identify the approximate 20,000-25,000 genes in the human body
  • Sequence the approximate 3 billion base pairs of human DNA
  • Store the Information
  • Improve the technology for the analysis of the data
  • Devote some time to the Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI)

The HCG was realized as a result of the worldwide benefits that would be gained from the knowledge. The new information about the human genome leads to a better understanding of the human body and the structure of DNA. Knowing the location and sequence of all of the genes in the human body helps scientists to better conceive their functions. For example, when scientists know the location of a gene that determines a specific disease, improved treatments may emerge because of a superior insight into its processes. During the course of the project, scientists have also sequenced the genomes of numerous organisms besides humans. Some of these include the roundworm, fruit fly and the bacterium E.Coli. Due to the similarities between human DNA and the DNA of other organisms, knowing their genomes helps researchers to grasp gene function.

Storing the enormous volume of data from the Human Genome Project became difficult for scientists. Technology, such as database-management systems and robotics, was utilized and improved to aid in the storing of new information in computer databases around the world. Some of these databases, like the DNA database in Japan, were connected to the internet in order to make the genome research accessible internationally. The technology developed specifically for the analysis and research of the hman genome was used for the HGP and was also transferred to private ownership. As a result of this and of grants being awarded for advanced research, the biotechnology sector was catapulted into a multi-billion dollar industry. Many private companies conducted their own innovative studies. One company, Celera Genomics, published their own draft of the human genome in February, 2001, at around the same time that the public collaboration released their draft. 

Important Dates

1990: Human Genome Project began

June 2000: Working draft of the human genome completed

Feb 2001: Working draft of the entire human genome is published

April 2003: The Human Genome Project is completed ( two years prior to the expected finish date)

Although the Human Genome Project is finished, detailed maps of chromosomes are continually being released and research is still being conducted. There are things that remain unknown to or not understood by scientists, such as the exact number, location and function of genes. The function is unknown for over 50% of genes. What scientists have learned is how the genome is arranged and how the human genome compares to that of other organisms. Scientists have furthermore discovered that the oder of the nucleic bases (A, T, G and C) are almost exactly the same in all people. It's estimated that the average variation in the genomes of two compared people is 0.05-0.01%.

For a more detailed explanation of what was learned please click here 



The cost of the Human Genome Project, including research costs, is approximated at $3 billion. About 3-5% of this went to to the study of Ethical, Legal and Social Issues.


1. What is the Human Genome Project?

The Human Genome project is a collaboration that lasted 13 years, two years earlier than expected. The focus of the project was the mapping and sequencing of the 20,000-25,000 genes in the human genome. Scientists had originally estimated the human genome to contain around 100,000 genes.

2. When did it take place?  

Conferences to discuss the possibility of such an endeavour began in 1985. The HGP officially began in 1990 and was finished in 2003.

3. Who took part in it?

The project was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy (DOE). Numerous countries participated in the HGP by developing their own human genome research programs. Some of these countries include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

4. Why was the Human Genome Project initiated?

The Human Genome Project began because the knowledge of the structure and arrangement of the human genome would vastly improve scientists' understanding of how genes and the human body works. Many benefits would result, such as better medical treatment.