While new interstates, airports and civic centers seem to take twice as long as planned and cost twice as much to complete, the Human Genome Project is nearing completion well ahead of schedule.

The project — a colossal endeavor to sequence the 3 billion base pairs containing the 80,000 genes that define a human being — began in 1990 with a 15-year timetable that seemed optimistic, given the sequencing technology available at the time.

As of November, however, 1 billion base pairs already were in the database. And the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) is forecasting a “rough draft” of the project — with 90 percent of the genome accounted for — will be ready this spring.

Besides offering new help for pediatric patients, experts predict the genome’s windfall will converge with managed care trends to bring pediatricians new responsibilities as the century advances.

As mutations responsible for important...

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