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Babbage: The unfinished genomics revolution

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19 April 2023

Twenty years ago, the Human Genome Project was completed. It unveiled a mostly complete sequence of the 3 billion pairs of building blocks that make up the code within every set of human chromosomes. These are the instructions that create humans. Almost all of human biology research uses the Human Genome Project’s findings in some way, from understanding why some people are more likely to develop diseases than others, to uncovering the secrets of our ancestors and evolution. But for genomics to become a part of everyday medicine, paving the way for personalised medicines, the hard work is still ahead. Natasha Loder, The Economist’s health editor and Geoff Carr, our senior editor for science and technology, reflect on the completion of the Human Genome Project in the early 2000s and the gaps that still remain. Natasha also visits the Wellcome Sanger Institute, to explore the next frontiers for genomics in medicine—she meets the outgoing director, Mike Stratton; the incoming director, Matt Hurles; and the boss of the European Bioinformatics Institute, Ewan Birney. Plus, Mathew Davies, an engineer at the Sanger Institute, and his team, discuss the challenges with storing and processing vast amounts of sequencing data. Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, hosts. To dive deeper on genomics, find our recent episode from the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing, or explore the power of gene therapies, and also an explainer on how genomic sequencing works. If you love Babbage, why not work with us? We’re hiring for an Assistant Audio Producer to work on the show. Apply by May 15th. For full access to The Economist’s print, digital and audio editions subscribe at and sign up for our weekly science newsletter at Hosted on Acast. See for more information.


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