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Sequencing the human genome showed that humans are all much more alike than different; genome pioneer J. Craig Venter told the International Herald Tribune that the Human Genome Project proved once and for all that “the concept of race has no scientific basis.” Yet at the same time, geneticist Gonçalo Abecasis proposed that the next big international genomics project target precisely those few differences and figure out what they mean. “There was some trepidation,” he says.
Now, eight years later, Abecasis’s idea—dubbed the 1,000 Genomes Project—is coming to an end. They exceeded their goal, having sequenced over 2500 human genomes from 26 distinct groups of people around the world. (The collaboration’s last two papers are in Nature.) At least in the scientific community, trepidation about studying the genetic differences between groups of people has largely disappeared. However, as the University of California, San Francisco sociologist Catherine Bliss puts it in her book Race Decoded, genomics has gone from being a “race-free” science to being a “race-positive” one.
In a way, race was a side exploration. The real point here might be genuine personalized medicine, using genetic quirks to find drugs, tests, and screenings that work on someone’s particular genomic makeup. The problem is that the vast majority of research into moving medicine in that direction study just one population: Europeans and European Americans, aka white people. “That’s a travesty, because huge parts of our world population are not deriving the same benefits of the fruits of the Human Genome Project,” said Esteban Burchard, a pulmonologist at UCSF
Read full, original post: What 2,500 sequenced genomes say about humanity’s future