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[BEIJING] The Chinese government is to invest US$72 million over the next three years to develop health products and other medical technologies based on detailed knowledge of the human genome, the sequencing of which was announced to be complete earlier this week.

According to Shi Dinghuan, a spokesman for the Ministry of Science and Technology, the money will be used to help develop significant innovations in genetics-based disease prediction, prevention, diagnosis and therapy.

"The Chinese Government has decided that [the development of] genetics-based medicine is a major application [of the sequencing of the human genome]," he says.

China, which ranks fourth in the world in terms of gene-sequencing capacity, was part of an international consortium of six nations that announced the completion of sequencing of the human genome on 14 April. The project, which involved about 1,000 scientists from 16 institutions worldwide, was finished more than two years ahead of its original schedule at a cost of US$2.7 billion, close to the original budget of US$3 billion.

Political leaders in the countries that supported the sequencing — China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — this week hailed its completion as a major achievement.

"This genetic sequence provides us with the fundamental platform for understanding ourselves, from which revolutionary progress will be made in biomedical sciences and in the health and welfare of humankind," they said in a joint statement.

The announcement came three years after the publication of a 'rough draft' of the human genome, which was 97 per cent complete. According to Yang Huanming, the chief Chinese scientist involved in the Human Genome Project, the completed sequence covers about 99 per cent of the human genome's gene-containing regions, and has been sequenced to an accuracy of 99.99 per cent.

By sequencing the human genome, scientists have "opened the door into a vast and complex new biological landscape," says Yang. In doing so, he adds, they have created a revolution which is "transforming biological science far beyond what we could imagine".

Chen Zhu, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, welcomed the completion of the genome, saying that "[new] medicines resulting from variations of DNA sequencing, can greatly improve efficiency of treatments and reduce [their] side-effects".

He predicted that the completed sequence would help scientists develop treatments for diseases such as cancer and senile dementia. Individuals may eventually be able to use their personal human genome sequence as a 'reference book' to adjust their diet and lifestyle, he adds.

Source: SciDev.Net