The Human Genome Project has vocal detractors. The $3bn plan to map the three billion chemical units of our DNA – what the then-US President described as "learning the language that allowed God to create life" – was completed. Yet more than a decade on, the promise of medicine transformed and groundbreaking cures developed remained unfulfilled. Was the genome a red herring, after all?
Absolutely not. The critics were – as critics often are – too quick to judge. As The Independent reports today, within five years men could be screened for prostate cancer using only a simple saliva test. All thanks to the Human Genome Project's "healthy" template against which the dozens of mutations linked with the disease can be checked. And that is just the beginning. Detection of and treatment for any number of other cancers will follow. It just may take a little time.