NIH to survey human genome

NIH to survey human genome

A new grant could provide NIH researchers with the necessary funding for key advancements in DNA sequencing.

Grants totaling nearly  $19 million will help to develop technologies to dramatically reduce the cost of DNA sequencing, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), says, a move that could ultimately lead to full-scale survey of genetic information in a cell.

In a statement released earlier this month, the NIH says the grants will advance ENCODE by expanding its investigation of functional elements to a considerably larger number of human cells and tissues, and a deeper set of data types.

“These grants build on the momentum of recently released ENCODE findings in which researchers provided a highly detailed and global view of the human genome,” said Elise A. Feingold, Ph.D., program director for ENCODE in NHGRI’s Division of Extramural Research. “We have already made tremendous progress, but much work remains to complete the catalog of functional elements. These grants, awarded over a four-year period, will allow us to build on those results and take the next significant steps in deepening our understanding of the entire human genome.”

The announcement is the latest in a string of grants that the NIH says will vastly improve its ability to isolate and identify key traits related to cellular functions within individuals. The data could ultimately allow physicians to more effectively fight diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to epilepsy. Speaking Monday, NIH officials say the grants will provide scientists with an opensource  of data that could usher in an age of widespread use of genomics in research and clinical care. Speed and accuracy are among other factors that grants will seek to address, in addition to driving down the price of such care.

“We can now access data we could not dream of getting in 2004 when we started this program — tens of thousands of human genome sequences have been generated,” said Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D., NHGRI director. “And yet, the information we would truly like to get for understanding disease and, eventually, for treating patients, requires much better quality sequence data. That is the direction we would like to go with these grants.”

NIH officials say all of the data generated by the ENCODE project will be deposited into public databases as soon as they are experimentally verified, adding that physicians will then have the ability to access the data and contribute to the database with additional information.

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