The euphoria generated this week from the unlocking of the human genetic code should not ovespill into insurance markets too soon, says a leading academic.

Dr Angus Macdonald, head of the Genetic and Insurance Research Centre at Edinburgh University, believes the Human Genome Project may have only a limited effect on underwriting.

Macdonald described the scientific breakthrough of revealing the sequence of human DNA as “staggering”, but added more research was needed to reveal exactly which parts of the code predisposed people to hereditary diseases.

He said the discovery could be compared to publishing a series of telephone books but having to wait for the telephone to be invented.

Macdonald said: “The discovery of the human genome is unlikely to lead to immediate change.

“In insurance terms, there is only a small number of genetic disorders that have any significance and these can currently be detected from family history.”

He said his centre, which is funded by a panel of ABI member insurers, is planning to publish research into the implications of genetic discoveries for critical health and life insurance later this year.