Battelle study reports the success of the Human Genome Project. Technology Transfer at its best.
“Genomic Revolution” Forging Major Breakthroughs in Medicine, Agriculture, Security & Justice, and Energy and Promises to Create Significantly More Jobs in the Future
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The $3.8 billion the U.S. government invested in the Human Genome Project (HGP) from 1988 to 2003 helped drive $796 billion in economic impact and the generation of $244 billion in total personal income, according to a study released today by Battelle. In 2010 alone, the human genome sequencing projects and associated genomics research and industry activity directly and indirectly generated $67 billion in U.S. economic output and supported 310,000 jobs that produced $20 billion in personal income. The genomics-enabled industry also provided $3.7 billion in federal taxes during 2010.
The report also outlines significant breakthroughs the Human Genome Project, and a companion private project from Celera Genomics, have made possible in just the first ten years since the reference human genomes were published. Advancements include new approaches to medicine, greater productivity in agriculture and potential sources of renewable energy. The study also forecasts the creation of significantly more jobs in the future as new companies and new industries continue to form around the expanded knowledge of human DNA model organism genomes and advances in genomics technology.
“From a simple return on investment, the financial stake made in mapping the entire human genome is clearly one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars the U.S. government has ever made,” said Greg Lucier, chief executive officer of Life Technologies, whose foundation sponsored Battelle’s analysis. “This project has been, and will continue to be, the kind of investment the government should foster…ones with tangible returns.
“The initial dollar investment has already been returned to the government via $49 billion paid in taxes. Now we sit at the dawn of the ‘Genomics Revolution’ and all humankind will reap the benefits as we transfer what we now know about the human genome into major breakthroughs including: new forms of ‘personalized medicine’ and genetics therapy better suited to solving the problems we all care so much about, such as cures for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS and many more terrifying diseases. These major advancements are rapidly creating multiple new industries and companies and those companies are creating quality jobs for thousands of people. Life will be even better for all of us thanks to the HGP,” Lucier said.
Simon Tripp, Senior Director of Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice, or TPP, (co-author of the Battelle report with TPP Research Leader Marty Grueber) noted, “What is truly impressive is the extent to which genomics technologies have advanced under the driving force of the human genome sequencing projects. Today high-speed sequencing and advancements in genomic data analysis are empowering unprecedented advancements in biological sciences and being applied to the most pressing issues facing the world—human health and medicine, feeding a rapidly expanding global population, developing advanced biofuels, and protecting the environment. The ability of modern science to address these large-scale issues via genomics stands as testimony to the vision and foresight shown by HGP supporters, leaders and participants.”
The four main conclusions reached in the Battelle study are:
- The economic and functional impacts generated by the sequencing of the human genome are already large and widespread. Between 1988 and 2010 genome sequencing projects, associated research and industry activity—directly and indirectly—generated an economic (output) impact of $796 billion, created 3.8 million job-years of employment (310,000 jobs in 2010) with personal income exceeding $244 billion (an average of $63,700 in personal income per job-year).
- The federal government invested $3.8 billion in the HGP from 1990–2003 ($5.6 billion in 2010 dollars). This investment was foundational in generating the economic output of $796 billion above, and thus shows a return on investment (ROI) to the U.S. economy of 141 to 1, meaning that every $1 of federal HGP investment has contributed to the generation of $141 in the economy.
- Overall, however, the impacts of the human genome sequencing are just beginning—large scale benefits in human medicine and many other diverse applications are still in their early stages. The best is truly yet to come.
- The HGP is arguably the single most influential investment to have been made in modern science and a foundation for progress in the biological sciences moving forward.
About the Human Genome Project
“Sequencing of the human genome represented the largest single undertaking in the history of biological science and stands as a signature scientific achievement,” the Battelle report states. It took just 13 years to sequence human DNA under the Human Genome Project (HGP), an international public project led by the United States, and a complementary private program. Sequencing the human genome involved determining the complete sequence of the three billion DNA base pairs and identifying each human gene. It required advanced technology development and the assembly of an interdisciplinary team of biologists, physicists, chemists, computer scientists, mathematicians and engineers. President Bill Clinton called it “the very blueprint of life” in his January 27, 2000 State of the Union address.
The “Genomics Revolution” in Action
Scientists are using the reference genome, the knowledge of genome structure, and the data from the HGP as the foundation for fundamental advancements in science and medicine and the development of applied genomics tools, techniques and technologies.
Genomics also has become a tool for applications in the field of justice and security. For homeland security, the ability to genotype suspicious infectious pathogens and trace their origin is a national security priority. Law enforcement is also using genomics in tracing illegal importation of protected animal species tissue, while the identification of human remains from disasters is another application.
Modern genomics, advanced by the HGP is not only being applied to human biomedical sciences. The “genomic revolution” is influencing renewable energy development, industrial biotechnology, agricultural biosciences, veterinary sciences, environmental science, forensic science and homeland security, and advanced studies in evolution, zoology, anthropology and other academic disciplines.
Next Steps in the “Genomics Revolution”
While the primary impacts of the “Genomics Revolution” have not yet been felt in most areas of daily clinical practice, that day is accelerating towards us. The Battelle report lists a number of example advancements we can expect in the future due to the HGP and genomics advancements:
- Agricultural productivity to increase considerably, working towards the challenge of feeding the world’s rapidly expanding population in a sustainable manner.
- Not only will food availability increase, but the impact of its production on the global environment will reduce as crops and livestock are developed with traits suited to nitrogen use efficiency, no-till agriculture, water use efficiency and reduced waste production.
- Currently low-value biomass, especially low-value cellulosic biomass, will be converted into higher-value liquid fuels, energy sources, bio-based chemicals, plastics and materials. These products will increasingly displace petroleum and other fossil-based inputs, contributing to reduced carbon emissions and associated climate and environmental benefits.
- An increasingly two-way flow of diagnostics, therapeutics and prevention tools will move between human medicine, veterinary medicine and agriculture as the cost of genomic technologies reduces and the applications of discoveries in one area can be applied to another because of comparative genomics and other genomic advancements.
- The legacy of pollution on the planet caused by human activity will be addressed increasingly through the application of genetically engineered, modified or synthetic organisms designed to perform remediation and mitigation functions.
To read the full report, click here.
As the world’s largest independent research and development organization, Battelle provides innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing needs through its four global businesses: Laboratory Management; National Security; Health and Life Sciences; and Energy, Environment and Material Sciences. It advances scientific discovery and application by conducting $6.5 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle oversees 22,000 employees in more than 130 locations worldwide, including seven national laboratories which Battelle manages or co-manages for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a nuclear energy lab in the United Kingdom.
Battelle also is one of the nation’s leading charitable trusts focusing on societal and economic impact and actively supporting and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.