The Race to Map Our Genes

A French team is running ahead of America's lavishly funded genome project -- and on higher moral ground

Biologists, unlike physicists, are unaccustomed to gargantuan, gazillion- dollar research projects. So when American geneticists embarked on a $3 billion effort to map out all the hereditary information found on the 23 pairs of human chromosomes, they decided, like the proverbial tortoise, to take the slow and careful route. Plotting out a 12-year game plan, the geneticists subdivided the work among nine different laboratories so that eventually the scientists could pool their results in one highly detailed chart. Along the way, they have been trying to patent their discoveries, even before knowing precisely what their importance was.

But they did not...

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