Volume 1, number 2

Sequencing of the human genome was announced too hastily

Sequencing of the human genome is far from complete, endocrinologist and biochemist Jacques Lussier believes. "The announcement made in February 2001 was premature," states this professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Université de Montréal. "What is known is not 85% of human genes, as announced, but less than a third."

When he conducted a study of bovine genes with his students, this researcher, who specializes in animal reproduction, was surprised to find that 45% of the sequences were missing from the Genbank database, where the genome data were made public. "It is really incredible that so few known sequences are present among a selection of genes chosen at random," he stated.
For Professor Lussier, the economic interests of private enterprise, in particular Celera Genomics, forced researchers to make a premature public announcement. In his opinion, the complete sequencing of the human genome will not be completed before 2003.

It will be remembered that on June 26, 2000, a consortium made up of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan and China announced the completion of preliminary sequencing of the human genome. It was announced that "nearly the entire human genome," in other words, the 3.1 billion base pairs of our genetic makeup, had been decoded. In Washington, US President Bill Clinton called June 26 a "day for the ages." British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke of "the first great technological triumph of the 21st century."

For the layman, the objection that immediately comes to mind is that the gene of an animal is not a human gene. Prof. Lussier dos not concur. To deny a common genetic base is to deny the theory of evolution of species. "A gene that codes for a given protein in drosophila has a very similar sequence identity in humans," he explains.

Moreover, Jacques Lussier is not the only one criticizing Celera for its impatience and clever manoeuvres designed to draw media attention… and attract investors. Jean Weissenbach, a French researcher working on the human genome, has taken private enterprise to task in a recent issue of Médecine/Sciences (March 17, 2001). He speaks of "fallacious results" and "fraud." "There are 170,000 'holes' in the Celera compartmented assembly, and the structure of at least a third of these genes is incomplete," he writes.

Researcher : Jacques Lussier
Phone : (514) 343-6111 ext. 8363
Funding : Natural Science and Engeneering Research Council of Canada, Fonds pour la formation des chercheurs et l'aide à la recherche (Québec), Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation (Québec)