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Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of Genome Research: What is Genomics?

This guide provides resources that will help the user understand the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of genome research--research into the genomes of humans, plants, and other organisms. Among other topics, this guide covers gene patenting.

What is Genomics?

Genomics is the study of genomes and their environments. A genome is the set of instructions needed to create an organism.

Perspective on the Human Genome Project - Past and Future - Eric Green and Francis Collins

The International Human Genome Project (HGP)

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was a 13-year international effort to discover all the 20,000 to 25,000 human genes, determine the sequence of the 3 billion DNA subunits contained in the human chromosomes, and make this information available for further study.

The discussions that gave rise to the HGP took place beginning in 1985, and were international in scope, involving the United Kingdom, Japan, the countries of the European Union and the United States. The formal announcement of the NIH effort in 1990 can conveniently be taken as marking the start of the HGP and its ending in 2003 with the completion of the human genome reference sequence.

Current Research Projects

Genetic Testing and Results

Economic Impact of the HGP - Battelle Study

The main conclusions reached in the Battelle study are:

  • The economic and functional impacts generated by the HGP are already large and widespread; but, overall, the impacts of the HGP are just beginning.
  • The Federal government’s investment of $3.8 billion in the HGP from 1990–2003 was key in generating the economic impact of the HGP.
  • The HGP can be considered one of the most influential investments to have been made in modern science and will drive future progress in the biological sciences.

What is the Human Genome Worth?