It’s a rare project that comes in earlier than expected and under-budget, but the Human Genome Project did both. The goal of the project was to map the entire human genome to further genetic research and understanding. It was expected to take 15 years and cost $200M in (inflation adjusted) dollars per year. Actually, it took 13 years and came in more than 20% under budget. The project achieved this and at the same time actually improved upon it’s initial goals and achieved accuracy of 99.99%.
There are two primary reasons for this achievement:
- Technology improvement - genetic sequencing was a new technology and costs fell rapidly as processes improved and automation increased. Initially the cost per base was estimated at $0.25 and it finally came in at $0.09, 36% of the expected level.
- Cooperation – although primarily US funded the project was open and transparent and many other organizations contributed to the effort with the result that the initial funders did approximately 70% of the total work.
Other less significant factors were flexibility in that the plans for the project were done on a 5 rather than 15 year basis and frequently revised. Secondly, the goals for the project were clear and measurable from the very start resulting in clear project focus.
Cost vs. Budget
Cost vs. Budget in millions of 1998 inflation adjusted dollars is shown below. It is clear how the project only scaled towards the end once efficiency was achieved and also achieved significant savings by achieving its goals two years ahead of scheduled.