Place your $1 Bet on the Number of Genes in the Human Genome

In the olden days [1985 - 1999], everyone quoted the number of distinct genes in the human genome (3 billion base pairs) as in the range [80,000 - 100,000]. However, that number has been revised downward significantly (by most geneticists), as a result of the completion of Chromosomes 21 and 22, where the distribution of genes was found to be somewhat less dense than expected. If this density were to hold true across the other chromosomes, the final tally would certainly be less. (Remember that only two percent of the genome actually codes for genes.)

Now check out to see the conditions for a $1 bet on the Lottery for the number of genes in the Human Genome organized by Dr. David Stewart, Director of the Conference at the Cold Sring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York. The winner will be declared in 2003, by which time the scientific community is expected to reach a consensus and the person closest will be declared the winner (winner take all; ties divide the pot equally).

281 bets have been placed so far, ranging from [27,462 - 312,278] with a mean of 67,006. (By the way, anyone who bet less than 38,000, which is the number of genes actually identified to date, must be of the opinion that some of these "found" genes will ultimately be taken back as being in error.)

Of general interest are the individuals or Centers that have placed bets so far: Genoscope Sequncing Center of Evry, FRANCE bet ~31,000; Prof. Philip Green of the University of Washington in Seattle bet 34,000; Prof. Gerald Rubin of UC Berkeley bet 55,000; however, DoubleTwist, Inc. of Oakland, California bet 105,000, TIGR of Rockville, Maryland bet 120,000, while Incyte Genomics of Palo Alto, California and Human Genome Sciences of Rockville, Maryland have bet >140,000 for their own special reasons.

Unfortunately, on-line placement of bets have been precluded by the rules...

David J. Stewart, Ph.D., Director
Meetings and Courses
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
1 Bungtown Road
Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724
Tel: 516-367-8801
FAX: 516-367-8845

informed on August 7th that "all bets have to be written by hand into a book which stays at the CSHL. This was a rule that was established as a consensus at the last Genome Meeting. I guess, in principle, we could start a second "on-line" betting service, since I have had about 250 E-mails so far [requesting to place a bet], but we might run into some kind of gambling restrictions!!! Maybe, we'd have to establish the server on a river boat or on an [Indian] reservation, as many gambling casinos seem to be."

Ref: Robert Lee Hotz, "$1 Gets You Into This Gene Pool," p. A1, A12, A13, The Los Angeles Times (July 25, 2000).