Billion dollar impact of the Human Genome Project?

12 June 2013

A new study has estimated the economic impact of the Human Genome Project (HGP) in the US as equivalent to almost a trillion dollars.
 
A 2011 report estimated the figure at $796 billion (see previous news) but the 2013 updated report The Impact of Genomics on the U.S. Economy puts it at $965 billion, resulting from an original government investment of $14.5 billion between 1988 and 2012 –not a bad return by any reckoning. The figures are based on a financial evaluation of the genomics industry and applications in healthcare and other sectors (e.g. agriculture).
 
The report is released by United for Medical Research (UMR), a coalition of  US scientific research and health advocacy bodies who wish to lobby the government for renewed funding commitments to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ‘because the fruits of science are a necessity, not a luxury, as much in hard times as in good’. NIH Director Francis Collins, who led the HGP, said: "Now is not the time to cut back on biomedical research, when the evidence proves this is such a profoundly important investment in America's future".
 
However, some economists have cast doubt on the figures, and many experts have condemned them as misleading insofar as they examine only the economic activity generated by the research effort, but not the impact on human health, which was the driving force for the whole initiative and the real target. Others argue that the calculations are wrong in attributing all of the  economic growth (whatever the accurate value is) to the government investment, pointing out that other factors including private investment in the genomics sector have also played a part. 

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