Happy Birthday, Life!

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It was just a simple black-and-white illustration, but the drawing of what looked like a twisted ladder will forever stitch life with its beautiful colors.

Published in the British journal, Nature, 50 years ago last month, the drawing and accompanying report revealed one of the most miraculous discoveries in history: the cracked molecular code of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA—the building blocks of life.

The report was penned by two scientists, American James Watson and Briton Francis Crick, who plowed through the doors of The Eagle pub one February night in 1953 to celebrate the “secret of life” they found in Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory.

April 25, the day their findings were published 50 years ago, is now deemed National DNA Day, but it was also the dawn of biotechnology—a stroke of genius that also earned Watson and Crick the Nobel Prize in 1962.

And while it took several years for the scientific world to appreciate its true significance, DNA remains a modern milestone that will most certainly catapult science into numerous eras. The double helix has exposed the underbellies of diseases, provided inroads to drug discovery and revealed what makes bacteria tick.

Still, there are many challenges and controversies surrounding areas of DNA research, and to deal with that, there needs to be genuine, global dialogue among the public, scientists, governments and international industry organizations to explore issues, establish a regulatory framework and cultivate a richer research environment.

The task may be like scaling the tricky rungs of Watson's and Crick's twisted ladder, but a global scientific and technological approach will not only ensure the steady climb for mankind, it will also do justice to two pioneers whose work continues to unravel life's mysteries.

Mark A. DeSorbo
Associate Editor


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