Report: Genomics industry contributed $1 trillion to U.S. economy in last 25 years

From the inception of the Human Genome Project in 1988 until 2012, the genomics revolution has had a total impact of nearly $1 trillion on the U.S. economy, according to a new report released Wednesday.

Conducted by the science and technology research organization Battelle and released by the advocacy group United for Medical Research, the report claims that in 2012 alone, the genomics industry generated $65 billion in U.S. economic output and contributed $31 billion toward the country's gross domestic product.

Amid sequestration and a leveling off of federal funding available for research grants over the past several years, the upbeat report is likely a tactic to persuade Congress to sustain funding for biomedical research efforts. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said at a briefing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that not only has sequestration cut about 700 research grants, but it will also result in the loss of about 25,000 biomedical research jobs.

Building on initial data from 2011, "The Impact of Genomics on the U.S. Economy" report estimates that even a decade after the Human Genome Project ended, the genomics industry has added $965 billion in impact, more than 53,000 direct genomics-related jobs and $293 billion in personal income from 1988 until 2012. During that same time period, the total federal research and development investment was $14.5 billion.

Battelle researcher Martin Grueber, a co-author of the report, said many industries are likely to continue to reap the benefits of genomics as sequencing gets cheaper and faster. "The likely growth of this area is dramatic," Grueber said at Wednesday's briefing.

The initial 2011 study estimated that the U.S. federal government's $3.8 billion funding of the Human Genome Project between 1988 and 2003 drove $796 billion in U.S. economic impact due to the growth of the genomics technology industry and the use of genomics across a number of industries, including healthcare, energy and agriculture.

Some economists are dubious of the high numbers touted in the report and instead said the study should have focused more on what health benefits people get from genomics.

Regardless of the exact dollar amount, it's fair to say the genomics revolution has made huge contributions to science and medicine. On Wednesday, Life Industries CEO Greg Lucier explained that the Human Genome Project helped scientists identify biomarkers and develop new drugs and diagnostic tests for important diseases like cancer.

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