By Donald Zuhn --
Earlier this month, the Battelle Memorial Institute announced the issuance of a report concerning the economic impact of the Human Genome Project. In the report, the research group indicated that the return on the $3.8 billion the U.S. government invested in the project between 1988 and 2003 totaled $796 billion. The report also indicated that the project has created some 310,000 jobs (as of 2010), generating $244 billion in total personal income. In 2010 alone, the project and associated genomics research and industry activity generated $67 billion in economic output, supported jobs that produced $20 billion in personal income, and provided $3.7 billion in federal taxes -- almost paying back the government's total investment in the project in a single year. In addition, Battelle noted that the project had launched a "genomic revolution" that would "create significantly more jobs in the future."
The report also noted that the project led to significant breakthroughs including new forms of personalized medicine and genetics therapy, greater productivity in agriculture, and potential sources of renewable energy. Life Technologies CEO Greg Lucier (the report was sponsored by Life Technologies' foundation) stated that "[f]rom a simple return on investment, the financial stake made in mapping the entire human genome is clearly one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars the U.S. government has ever made," adding that "[t]his project has been, and will continue to be, the kind of investment the government should foster."
The report reached four main conclusions:
1. The economic and functional impacts generated by the project are already "large and widespread." As discussed above, the project generated a total economic output of $796 billion between 1988 and 2010, generating 310,000 jobs (and 3.8 million job-years of employment) and $244 billion in personal income (or $63,700 per job-year).
2. The federal government invested $3.8 billion in the Human Genome Project from 1990 to 2003, which corresponds to $5.6 billion in 2010 dollars, and provided a return on investment of 141 to 1.
3. The impacts of the project are just beginning. The report noted that "large scale benefits in human medicine and many other diverse applications are still in their early stages," stating that "[t]he best is truly yet to come."
4. The project is "arguably the single most influential investment to have been made in modern science and a foundation for progress in the biological sciences moving forward."
According to the report, the total effort to decode the human genome involved many public and private players over many more years, and the work of entities such as Celera Genomics played an important part, and Battelle's analysis of the functional impacts of the Human Genome Project necessarily included all these contributions.