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Eyebrows Cocked at Genomics Impact Numbers

The report released yesterday that found the US investment in the Human Genome Project and later genomics funding has generated $965 billion in economic impact stirred up some skeptical pushback from critics, according to Nature's Meredith Wadman.

A former NSF science and innovation policy director, Julia Lane, called the numbers in the report from Battelle "ridiculous." Lane says that the report, which was released by United for Medical Research, an advocate for science funding, "reinforces this notion that science is a slot machine that you put money in, and magic happens and money pops out at the end."

Lane points out that Battelle used data from Dun and Bradstreet, an industry analysis company, to define which activities may be classified as within the genomics sector, when it should have turned to codes from the US Census Bureau.

Likewise, the employment data in the report would have been better if the authors had used numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lane suggests.

Another criticism has been that this report ties the genomics sector as a whole too closely to the federal investment.

"Many other factors, including private investment and innovation, have also contributed to the subsequent growth in clinical and practical applications of genomics," notes Mark McClellan, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution.

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