This year’s DNA Day arrives at a heady time for advances with the world’s most important molecule: scientists have edited DNA in a human zygote for the first time, we’re closer to a fully finished human reference genome than ever before, and the community is making major strides in using DNA to store data.
It’s humbling to be part of a field where transformations are happening so quickly and with such frequency. What’s being accomplished today is truly amazing, especially when we consider that June 2000 saw the White House announcement of the first drafts of the human genome sequence from the Human Genome Project and Celera. Fifteen years ago, telling our friends and family about working in the genomics field was the ultimate conversation-stopper; today, we feel like rock stars when people learn that we’re part of this exciting industry.
DNA Day celebrates both the completion of the draft of the first human genome, published in April 2003, and the seminal paper on the structure of DNA from Watson, Crick, and collaborators in 1953. When we think about how much has been learned about DNA since those first studies, it’s staggering: from epigenetics to CRISPR, from transposable elements to folding properties, we have come so far in such a short period of time. Now biology is entering the realm of big data, and DNA sequencing has led the way.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go. We believe that public education is particularly important; in a recent survey of consumers, the vast majority of respondents said that “any food containing DNA” should be labeled as such. It’s sad that even as we’re making incredible leaps forward in our understanding of DNA, so many people still have little or no education about this molecule and its function in the world. We hope that the community finds new and innovative ways to inform the public as it continues this unprecedented pace of biological discovery.
We wish you and yours a happy DNA Day!