The race to sequence the human genome – Tien Nguyen

The race to sequence the human genome – Tien Nguyen

Packed inside every cell in your body
is a set of genetic instructions, 3.2 billion base pairs long. Deciphering these directions
would be a monumental task but could offer unprecedented insight
about the human body. In 1990, a consortium
of 20 international research centers embarked on the world’s largest
biological collaboration to accomplish this mission. The Human Genome Project proposed
to sequence the entire human genome over 15 years
with $3 billion of public funds. Then, seven years
before its scheduled completion, a private company called Celera announced
that they could accomplish the same goal in just three years
and at a fraction of the cost. The two camps discussed a joint venture,
but talks quickly fell apart as disagreements arose over legal
and ethical issues of genetic property. And so the race began. Though both teams used the same technology
to sequence the entire human genome, it was their strategies
that made all the difference. Their paths diverged
in the most critical of steps: the first one. In the Human Genome Project’s approach, the genome was first divided into smaller,
more manageable chunks about 150,000 base pairs long that overlapped each other
a little bit on both ends. Each of these fragments of DNA was inserted inside a bacterial
artificial chromosome where they were cloned and fingerprinted. The fingerprints showed scientists
where the fragments overlapped without knowing the actual sequence. Using the overlapping bits as a guide, the researchers marked
each fragment’s place in the genome to create a contiguous map, a process that took about six years. The cloned fragments were sequenced
in labs around the world following one of the project’s
two major principles: that collaboration on our shared heritage
was open to all nations. In each case, the fragments
were arbitrarily broken up into small, overlapping pieces
about 1,000 base pairs long. Then, using a technology
called the Sanger method, each piece was sequenced letter by letter. This rigorous map-based approach
called hierarchical shotgun sequencing minimized the risk of misassembly, a huge hazard of sequencing genomes
with many repetitive portions, like the human genome. The consortium’s
“better safe than sorry” approach contrasted starkly with Celera’s strategy
called whole genome shotgun sequencing. It hinged on skipping
the mapping phase entirely, a faster, though foolhardy, approach
according to some. The entire genome was directly chopped up into a giant heap
of small, overlapping bits. Once these bits were sequenced
via the Sanger method, Celera would take the formidable risk
of reconstructing the genome using just the overlaps. But perhaps their decision
wasn’t such a gamble because guess whose freshly completed map
was available online for free? The Human Genome Consortium, in accordance with
the project’s second major principle which held that all of the project’s data would be shared publicly
within 24 hours of collection. So in 1998, scientists around the world were furiously sequencing
lines of genetic code using the tried and true, yet laborious,
Sanger method. Finally, after three exhausting years
of continuous sequencing and assembling, the verdict was in. In February 2001, both groups
simultaneously published working drafts of more than 90%
of the human genome, several years ahead
of the consortium’s schedule. The race ended in a tie. The Human Genome Project’s practice
of immediately sharing its data was an unusual one. It is more typical for scientists
to closely guard their data until they are able to analyze it
and publish their conclusions. Instead, the Human Genome Project
accelerated the pace of research and created an international
collaboration on an unprecedented scale. Since then, robust investment in both
the public and private sector has led to the identification
of many disease related genes and remarkable advances
in sequencing technology. Today, a person’s genome can be sequenced
in just a few days. However, reading the genome
is only the first step. We’re a long way away from understanding
what most of our genes do and how they are controlled. Those are some of the challenges for the next generation
of ambitious research initiatives.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. sorry to be "that" guy but your opening line is factually incorrect. All cells inside your body do not contain a copy if your genetic material. The most numerous cells, erythrocytes, do not contain a nucleus or it's DNA component.

    Additionally, the bacterial flora far outnumber our own cells by a factor of twn, none of which contain a copy of our genome.

  2. oh C'mon. It's one thing to make the characters female when you're just talking about scientists in general, but it's quite another to do so when the actual people you're talking about (0:39 on) are male. Both of the leaders of the genome sequencing efforts (Craig Venter from Celera and Francis Collins from the human genome project) were males. Showing females to represent the two companies is just pure unadulterated bullshit and revisionist history.

  3. no everyone can afford this type of "medical analysis", that's make me wonder why is it so important for government or relevant to private company's.

  4. I know that humans share the vast majority of their genome with each other, but how did the scientists record the variable sections and label them as variable?

  5. Although this was about the human genome, it focused more on how competition and collaboration can bring us forward in learning more.

  6. Great video. Keep doing more. You are doing a great thing making information available to everyone in small cohesive fun forms. Bye

  7. I rly like this channel, i rly do, but maan i hate that intro. Its just playing with my nerves, the sound is so annoying and mindbugging, PLS fix it !

  8. This clearly proves that competition between firms is a positive for the overall outcome of the product (faster, cheaper and good quality). Capitalism and competition between individuals or groups, overall, leads to better evolution outcomes. Capitalism is Freedom

  9. After this, can we sequence the genomes of all our foods? Then ,we could make Genetically modified and entirely artificial foods safer to eat.

  10. Science will never get that far. It's sociologically impossible to deny ancient knowledge which explains the entire foundation of energy and biological interrelations, but then vie to define the entirety of what makes us so anyways.

    Most of Science's big breakthroughs are from individuals that were not even a part of their community to begin with. We're talking about people with great minds walking out of the wood works to give these lazy fools the attention they never deserved. Every scientific community should be filled with pictures of geniuses and great minds, not their mediocre scientific joke material that is so washed down and physically limited, that we have children as prodigies now. The adult world now is a deeply ingrained psychical delusion where idiots use their age to get by, despite their body's form has no relevance to their mental conditioning.

    When I was younger, what I loved was not Science as people see it today. What I fell in love with was the very essence of curiosity and seeking answers that were better formulated and assessed than anything anyone has ever done collectively in that joke center you call a top university.

    They have feigned ancient wisdom and continue to have a vocabulary consisting of "random", "coincidence" and "nonsense" for every little thing they cannot comprehend for themselves. These, my friends, are not scientists, but frauds that have an establishment that only exists because of greatly mindful individuals that not one had any affiliation to any university until "after" they could not be ignored and were proven to be right — not only right, but the new dawn to universal understanding of what is and not what people "think" it is. The very objective virtue of any great mind. The scientific community alone, pushes away real knowledge until one day another genius walks in and blows their nonsense out of the murky water for the umpteenth time.

    History repeats itself. Geniuses are called crazy until proven otherwise. Tyrants continue to take over societies / kingdoms. Dogmatic practices don't think they are dogmatic while destroying any sort of creativity and exploration. People blindly believe in the tiniest of notions, ignore greater notions but insist on easily accepting aliens, ghosts, curses and other nuances of human frailty. The insanity of this species appears more and more sociological and mathematical than "random". It appears to me that on an atomic level, all this insanity and stupidity as well as hypocrisy can be fully explained by simply cross-referencing a circle to denial / conformity and a spiral to genius / madness.

    Sincerely, Phonetic Ethics. [Phonetic Ethics – The God I Know Is The Conscious Embodiment Of Love]

  11. Few others facts that should get mentioned with this. Not only did Celera work off of publicly available HGP to complete their sequence but C. Venter (who started that project) later admitted he swapped out all the other human DNA samples half way through the sequencing for his own, thus reducing the value of that sequence in mapping variations in the human genome due to diseases etc. He also attempted to then sell genetic information, an effort that he later abandoned as HGP was after all, public. If you were a researcher, HGPs sequences were not only available online, but you could order samples of bacteria carrying the pieces of the entire library, a process that was (and is today) is essential in many of the genomic experiments looking to isolate a specific gene or sequence for whatever reason. He undoubtedly accelerated the pace of HGPs research and props had to be given to him for that, and even later selling of the info can be seen as an effort to recoup some costs to the private company that funded the project, but alone, his effort would have been infinitely slower, less accurate, and far less stimulating to worldwide academic research and many wondered why he hadn't simply pitched in and helped the existing effort of the HGP rather than striking it out alone. Still, a very good short on DNA sequencing race. I remember this being hotly debated when I was in grad school.

  12. One day you will be able to download genetic code of a famous porn star and using a bionic 3D printer, you will be able to print a living replica.

  13. Silly people! The human genome was sequenced in the 1970's. Really! Look it up.

    TED was developed to distribute misinformation to people who think they're smart.

  14. Stop the human cloning; slave programing factories from manufacturing mindless, soulless, conscienceless drones, androids or robots.

  15. The video is pretty misleading. It paints a very rosy picture of the two projects. The reality was that the private company did not do it because they were nice or looking out for the good of humanity. They wanted to patent every possible gene they could to profit off future medical procedures. As they patented more and more genes, the public group had to go through a web of bureaucracy that cost valuable time and tax dollars. Private companies are out for profit. That is it. Putting profit before human decency and scientific integrity, they almost prevented the free access to the genome at all. The reason why the public sector published their findings so fast was to prevent further patents. It became a necessity as failing to do so would lock the information forever away. Sad that people are this way, but at least something good came out of it.

  16. I'll get the human genome for making into anthromorphic animals with CRISPR & splicing & the equipment is the best to create anthromorphic animals.

  17. ขอบคุณมากครับ สำหรับการบรรยายไทย
    ไม่เช่นนั้น ก็ไม่เข้าใจเลยครับ

  18. It's such a generous approach to make an international collaboration with an open sharing of technology, so typical of the idealism of the 1990's. This was followed by the far more competitive wave starting near 1998, where it became more like everyone out for themselves, and whatever you can do I can do better type of attitudes which alienates people into jealous, competitive factions. So interestingly, I was born in 1990, when the Human Genome Project began, and my little brother was born in 1998, when Celera began to challenge it, and in a funny sort of way, my relationship with my little brother's paralleled greatly the ambitious and underhanded ways Celera attempted to overtake the Human Genome Project but failed miserably. Selfish, vain-ambitions don't pay, people. Even if Celera won, and I'm glad it didn't, we all know they couldn't have done it without massive help, unthanked for and unacknowledged by Celera with their smug founder, that they got from the Human Genome Project. So open sharing, international collaboration: 1. Self-centered, risk taking private interests: 0. As it should be.

  19. MISSING: My dad is a researcher and told me: That a) The sequencing was a public / private venture that the U.S. taxpayers funded 50% of. b) That private corporations PATENTED many of the discoveries and now charge the general PUBLIC a fee for data that should be FREE to the public.

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