Illustration by Brian Lutz for Time (Source Photos: Will Kirk—Johns Hopkins University; Nick Gonzales—UC Santa Cruz; Patrick Kehoe; National Human Genome Research Institute)
May 23, 2022 6:08 AM EDT

Ever since the draft of the human genome became available in 2001, there has been a nagging question about the genome’s “dark matter”—the parts of the map that were missed the first time through, and what they contained. Now, thanks to Adam Phillippy, Karen Miga, Evan Eichler, Michael Schatz, and the entire Telomere-to-Telomere Consortium (T2T) of scientists that they led, we can see the full map of the human genomic landscape—and there’s much to explore.

In the scientific community, there wasn’t a consensus that mapping these missing parts was necessary. Some in the field felt there was already plenty to do using the data in hand. In addition, overcoming the technical challenges to getting the missing information wasn’t possible until recently. But the more we learn about the genome, the more we understand that every piece of the puzzle is meaningful.

I admire the T2T group’s willingness to grapple with the technical demands of this project and their persistence in expanding the genome map into uncharted territory. The complete human genome sequence is an invaluable resource that may provide new insights into the origin of diseases and how we can treat them. It also offers the most complete look yet at the genetic script underlying the very nature of who we are as human beings.

Doudna is a biochemist and winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

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