And there’s no denying the economic incentives the project provides. “What motivates people to pursue these big projects is not the belief that they will solve problems,” says Michael Eisen, Ph.D., a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s the belief that this is the way to get money.”
John Mazziotta, M.D., Ph.D., UCLA’s department of neurology chair and director of its Brain Mapping Center, says, “This initiative is more comprehensive than anything I’ve ever seen medicine and neuroscience. This effort will be both the stimulus and the challenge to work and collaborate in ways we haven’t done before, but always have wanted to.”
UCLA will likely benefit handsomely from the initiative as it says it is “well-positioned” to play a significant role in the effort and to capture funding that will support such an initiative, owing to the existence Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center and its “excellence” in nanoscience and nanotechnology.
Dr. Church is also in favor of spreading the funding for the project around. In an interview with Harvard Medical School News last month, he said, “The Genome Project didn’t adequately embrace small science. I think enabling small labs to do amazing things might be more powerful than having a juggernaut of a large lab, or worse yet, a race among a few large labs.”
A report from the Battelle Technology Partnership says that, between 1988 and 2010, federal investment in genomic research generated an economic impact of $796 billion, “impressive” considering that Human Genome Project (HGP) spending between 1990–2003 amounted to $3.8 billion and an ROI of 141:1.
Apart from job creation and ROI, if this massive initiative provides new treatment targets for intractable human neurological and psychiatric disorders, it will have been worth the investment.