Friday, December 5, 2008

Koreans Complete Human Genome Map

Earlier this year I happened to be watching television when BBC World aired the 2007 Richard Dimbleby Lecture, given about a year ago by Dr. Craig Venter, whose institute was first in the world to map the human genome.  Today, I awoke to read the news in all the local papers.  A Korean team has become the fourth in the world to map the human genome.
What I learned from Dr. Venter's Dimbleby lecture was that his project was made possible only through the contemporary advances in computing power that we all experience.  In other words, information technology is a fundamental component or pre-requisite to mapping the human genome and for further advances in genomics.
The Korea Times report today underscores this important reality. It notes, in part that "The individual genome sequence of American biologist Craig Venter was published in 2007, followed by those of DNA pioneer James Watson in April. Chinese scientist Yang Huanming became the first Asian last month to have his genome sequenced. The seven months of research to complete the genome sequence cost about 1.05 billion won ($716,000) including 800 million won for the computer system used for the decoding. In comparison, Venter's genome sequencing took four years and about 100 billion won ― Watson's project took about four months and 1.5 billion won, Kim said. Scientists believe that the cost could drop to around $1,000 in two to three years, which would allow the market to ``explode.'' "  
As important as this magnificent accomplishment is for Korean medical science, it is fundamentally a demonstration of the breadth and power of the information revolution here.  Congratulations!

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