Today is a pretty special day in the world of science and genetics – 60 years ago today James Watson & Francis Crick published their paper about the structure of DNA, changing everything about the way we think about the building blocks of life. April 25 is also momentous in that on this day in 2003 it was declared that the Human Genome Project was completed.
Life Technologies sequencing and PCR instruments and reagents played a critical role in the Human Genome Project, the international endeavor launched in 1990 to map the three billion base pairs in a single human genome. The Human Genome Project laid the foundation for a better understanding of the role that genetics plays in health and disease.
When I think about how far we’ve come in the past 60 years in terms of what we understand about the nature of genetics, and how genetics relates to disease allowing scientists and doctors to improve the quality of life for all of us, frankly, I am awed. But as impressed as I am by how far we’ve come, I’m even more excited about where we are going. When I think about the current state of genetic analysis, I am reminded of when as a child I heard President John F. Kennedy challenge Americans to reach for the moon – literally. The following quote has inspired me through the years to dream big, hopefully, it will inspire you as well:
“The problems of this world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need people who can dream of things that never were!”
Today we are at an amazing precipice in medicine and with the tools and knowledge now at our disposal, now is the time for us to dream about "things that never were"...like ending the suffering caused by neurodegenerative disorders or cancer as a chronic disease. Think about it: when the Genome Project began, there were only 4 mutations known to have a direct cause of a specific disease, now we have connected close to 3,000 genetic mutations that have a causative effect. When the project ended in 2003, we had 10 drugs that targeted specific mutations and today there are more than 100...and there are over 500 targeted therapeutics in clinical trials for cancer alone! The more we dream the more we'll discover.
Life Technologies plays a major role in using genetic analysis for the improvement of the human condition, whether it’s for cancer, infectious disease, neurological disorders, or our human identification work. You can’t really talk about genetic analysis today without mentioning Life Technologies. It is both awesome and humbling to work with the amazing people in the Life Tech family, and to be a part of a larger scientific community that is promoting the use of these technologies to change the course of medicine.
We are uniquely positioned to provide our customers with the technology and Bio Informatics solutions that can assist them in their full workflow from discovery to diagnostics. With our technologies, ranging from qPCR to next generation sequencing and our consultative solutions, we are well positioned to leverage our assets in the growing medical sciences/clinical segments. Genetic information is rapidly transforming the future of healthcare by enabling accurate and affordable diagnosis and prognosis, targeted treatments, and monitoring solutions.
How will this play out in the real world? One example is our Claritas business with Boston Children’s Hospital…together we will develop next-generation, genetic and genomics-based diagnostic testing solutions. The venture combines advanced instrumentation, software and bioinformatics capabilities with sophisticated clinical interpretation of test results and consultation by specialist physicians and medical genomics experts at Boston Children's Hospital.
I feel truly blessed to be a part of the future of medicine. Our world has changed so much in the past 60 years. Can you imagine what we can do together to accelerate the progress against complex disease over the next 10 years?
Ronnie Andrews is Life Technologies’ Head of Medical Sciences.