In the last 10 years, scientists have looked deeper into the mechanics of life than ever before. They have learned how molecules come together to make living organisms, how biological glitches cause common diseases, and have come within a whisker of creating new lifeforms in the laboratory.
Genetics was at the heart of the revolution. Scientific and technological advances allowed researchers to read every letter of an organism’s genome. The letters make genes, which are the templates for proteins that make cells. And the cells, in the tens of trillions, build the animals and plants around us.
The first major achievement came in 2001 when the 13-year, $4bn (£2.5bn) human genome project produced the first draft of the human genetic code. The huge task became a race between a global consortium of publicly funded scientists and an American genetics pioneer, Craig Venter.
This vividly reminds me of a summer school biology project we had to write way back in 1980 entitled “Life on Earth – what will the next decade hold in Biology?”
My biology teacher was rather annoyed at the annual PTA meeting my parents attended with what she called my “incredulous futuristic sci-fi” predictions that the human genome would be sequenced and we would start to unlock the code to health and disease.
Hmmm, well, wrong decade and only by 10 years, but hey! it’s happening right here, right now.
Sometimes all you need is a little imagination, patience and a few billion dollars to make dreams come true 🙂