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Public Statements

Introduction of A Resolution Recognizing the Sequencing of the Human Genome As One of the Most Significant Scientific Accomplishments of the Past 100 Years and Expressing Support for the Designation of April 25, 2013 as "DNA Day"

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick's discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA. Their discovery launched a field of inquiry that explained how DNA encoded biological information and how that information is duplicated and inherited. This field of study has led to untold scientific advances in the past 60 years.

I also rise today to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project. This month, ten years ago, an international consortium of scientists led by the National Human Genome Research Institute and the Department of Energy announced the successful sequencing of an entire human genome, the genetic blueprint that makes each of who we are.

The past ten years have seen a revolution in biomedical research, sparked by the completion of the Human Genome Project. With the availability of a compendium of all our genes, scientists have been able to link diseases to the genes that cause them, learn about how those diseases progress, develop therapies to stop them, and ultimately improve the health and welfare of the American people. We now sit at the cusp of a new era in medicine, genomic medicine, where we can use a person's genetics to target therapies for their specific illness. Genomic medicine will allow us to give the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. These advances in healthcare would not have been possible without the Human Genome Project.

Although genetic information can be enormously valuable to patients and their doctors, it also has the potential to be abused. In 1995, knowing that these scientific advances were coming and that people would have fears about how their personal information might be used, I introduced the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). GINA protects people from losing their health insurance or their job based simply upon their genetic makeup. More importantly, it alleviates people's fear of participating in research studies that benefit all of us through the advancement of medicine, because they know the results cannot be used to discriminate against them. Although it took us 14 years to get GINA passed into law, every step of the battle was worthwhile, as evidenced by the tremendous progress medicine has made since the completion of the Human Genome Project.

Not only did the Human Genome Project give us insights into human health, it also fueled two decades of remarkable economic growth. The past decade has seen great advancements in the technology necessary to decipher a genome. Sequencing the first human genome cost over $1 billion dollars and took 6-8 years to complete. Today, it costs less than $5,000 and can be done in 2-3 days. These advances have been made possible because federal investment in research has been translated into commercial technology by U.S. entrepreneurs and companies. According to a recent study, each dollar of federal money that was invested in the Human Genome Project resulted in $141 of economic activity, resulting in more than $796 billion dollars of economic impact and the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs over the last two decades. These figures underscore the essential nature of federal research and development in driving U.S. innovation.

I urge my colleagues to join me in taking this opportunity to designate April 25th as ``DNA Day'', when we honor the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project, the 60th anniversary of Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA, and all of the remarkable advancements our scientific community has made to the health of our nation's people.


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