Every year on April 25 since 2003, scientists, biologists, and genetics enthusiasts come together to observe National DNA Day, celebrating the discovery and research into DNA and the scientific advancements that helped make progress possible. Organized annually by the Human Genome Research Institute, National DNA Day encourages people to learn more about the science that makes them genetically unique.
On April 25, 1953, molecular biologist James Dewey Watson’s academic paper presenting DNA’s double-helix structure (which he co-authored with British molecular biologists Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins) was published in the scientific journal, Nature. Nine years later, the three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for unearthing the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its importance for genetic information transfer in living beings.
On April 14, 2003, the Human Genome Project, an international scientific research project with the goal of determining the base pairs that make up human DNA and identifying all genes of the human genome, was declared complete. The project lasted for 13 years, finishing two years ahead of schedule, and was publicly funded by the U.S. government. It originally set to map the nucleotides contained within a human haploid genome, but scientists quickly realized that the genome of any given individual is completely unique, so mapping the human genome involved mapping the DNA of a small number of individuals and then piecing them all together to create a complete sequence for each individual chromosome. Meaning the complete human genome is more-so a mosaic rather than representative of any one individual.
Following the completion of the Human Genome Project, both the Senate and the House of Representatives proclaimed April 25, 2003 DNA Day and April as Human Genome Month. The day marked 50 years since Watson, Crick, and Wilkins’ academic paper was published and the month itself was considered significant in genome discovery. However, they only declared it a one-time celebration rather than an annual holiday. Since then, National DNA Day events and celebrations have been hosted by the National Human Genome Research Institute in order to encourage further research as well as celebrate and continue to acknowledge all of the hard work that has been dedicated to the study of DNA.