The Human Genome Project, the mapping of our 100000 genes and the sequencing of all of our DNA, will have major impact on biomedical resarch and the therapeutic and preventive health care. The tracing of genetic diseases to their molecular causes is rapidly expanding diagostic and preventive options, while the increased insights into molecular pathways open tremendous perspectives for pharmacological and genetic therapies. The design of animal model systems for the functional study of disease and development of bioinformatics and biostatistics to improve our pattern recognition abilities are greatly accelerating progress. However, the optimal value from the current explosion of ‘data mining’ possibilities will only be gained when the basic data are made and kept publicly accessible, at the same time preventing the jeopardisation of the protection of intellectual property, arising from downstream inventions. This is one of the goals of HUGO, the international Human Genome Organisation, established 9 years ago to assist coordinating data acquisition and exchange and societal implementation of the genome project. Additional points of major importance in this historic endeavour are the safe-guarding of a worldwide balance in the contribution and benefits to countries and population, the prevention of stigmatisation and discrimination of individuals and groups and the maintenance of respect for the priceless diversity of our world's cultures and traditons.
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