Timeline: The Human Genome Project

The Human Genome Project, which began officially in 1990, was the largest international collaboration ever undertaken in biology and involved thousands of scientists. 

  • 1985

  • Robert Sinsheimer, chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), holds first meetings to propose sequencing the human genome with potential funders, the US Department of Energy, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the UK Medical Research Council (MRC).Robert Sinsheimer
  • 1988

  • The Human Genome Organisation (HUGO), an international organisation of scientists involved in human genetics, is founded. HUGO logo
  • 1990

  • The Human Genome Project is launched in the USA, directed by James Watson. The initial target completion date is 2005. James Watson
  • 1992

  • John Sulston submits a grant application to the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council (MRC) proposing that they fund the completion of his nematode worm sequencing project, and begin the UK’s contribution to the Human Genome Project. John Sulston
  • James Watson leaves his position as director of the Human Genome Project after conflicts of interest with the director of the National Institutes of Health.
  • 1993

  • The Sanger Centre is officially opened with funding from the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council (MRC). The British arm of the Human Genome Project is launched at the Sanger Centre under the leadership of John Sulston.

  • Francis Collins replaces James Watson as the director of the Human Genome Project.

    Francis Collins
  • 1994

  • Scientists finish a major mapping stage of the Human Genome Project one year ahead of schedule.
  • 1996

  • Representatives from sequencing centres around the world meet in Bermuda to draft a set of principles for free and rapid access to Human Genome Project data. These become known as the “Bermuda Principles”.Bermuda
  • 1997

  • The U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute, California, USA is opened. The Institute consolidates genome research activities at the Department of Energy’s centres at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). DOE Joint Genome Institute logo
  • 1998

  • Celera Genomics launches a private venture to finish sequencing the human genome in three years.
  • The Wellcome Trust releases more funding allowing the Sanger Centre to raise their contribution to the Human Genome Project from sequencing one-sixth of the human genome to sequencing one-third.
  • The Human Genome Project reaches its midpoint and a new five-year plan for the project is published.
  • 1999

  • Large-scale DNA sequencing of the human genome begins. DNA sequencing at the Sanger Centre
  • The Sanger Centre finishes the sequence of the first human chromosome, chromosome 22, the second smallest of the autosomes. Chromosome 22


  • The ENSEMBL genome browser is launched by the Sanger Centre and EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute. Ensembl logo
  • 2000

  • The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) launches its Human Genome Browser.
  • 2001

  • The Human Genome Project and Celera Genomics both publish an account of their draft sequences in Nature and Science magazines, respectively.
  • The Sanger Centre is renamed the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to reflect more closely the size of the institute and its relationship with the Wellcome Trust.
  • 2003

  • The “Gold standard” reference human genome sequence is officially completed to 99.99 per cent accuracy.

    DNA bases

This page was last updated on 2021-07-21