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Human Genome News Archive Edition

Human Genome Quarterly, Summer 1989; 1(2)

U.S. Human Genome Effort: DOE/NIH Interactions

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Human Genome Program, which began in 1987 with the goal of developing the resources and technologies needed to characterize the entire human genome at the molecular level, is now one of the two major components of this nation's human genome effort.

To receive sustained Congressional support for this effort, DOE and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will formulate a national plan. This plan, which Congress originally requested from James Wyngaarden as an NIH plan, has been expanded in scope and now includes the DOE program. Its due date is February 1990.

When program scope, funding, and strategies are considered, the initiatives of the two agencies are quite complementary, as described below.

NIH Office of Human Genome Research. In 1988 the NIH (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) formally started a human genome effort. James D. Watson, Nobel Laureate, was appointed Associate Director of NIH for Human Genome Research. Elke Jordan was named Director of the Office of Human Genome Research. Effective FY 1990, this office will become the National Center for Human Genome Research. Broad in scope, the NIH effort differs from the DOE program in several ways, because its program:

  • focuses on comparative genetic studies of human and model organisms,
  • promotes both predoctoral and postdoctoral training programs,
  • emphasizes the study of disease genes, and
  • funds research largely through individual university-related research grants.

DOE Human Genome Program. In contrast, the majority of DOE's work is conducted at the department's multidisciplinary national laboratories, and the focus of DOE's research and development program is to:

  • construct linearly ordered maps of chromosome-specific DNA clones (prepared by the National Laboratory Gene Library Project);
  • improve significantly the efficiency of sequencing DNA; and
  • upgrade the computer capabilities needed to organize, disseminate, and interpret the sequence of the human genome.

DOE Steering Committee Attends NIH Program Advisory Committee for the Human Genome

The NIH Program Advisory Committee for the Human Genome held its second meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, June 19-20, 1989. Benjamin J. Barnhart, Manager of the DOE Human Genome Program, attended the meeting and gave a progress report on the DOE program. All five members of the DOE Human Genome Steering Committee (HGSC) actively participated in the meeting.

Points of discussion included:

  • NIH center grant requests, which are due January 1990;
  • how quickly and in what form mapping sequence data should become available;
  • the need for nomenclature standards; and
  • funding for instrumentation.

The next NIH Program Advisory Committee meeting will be held Dec. 4-5.

DOE Steering Committee Activities

DOE/NIH To Convene Joint Planning Committee To Develop National Plan
At the DOE HGSC meeting (April 18, 1989) in which members of other agencies, including NIH representatives Mark Guyer, Elke Jordan, and James Watson participated, DOE and NIH agreed to convene a joint planning committee to develop a national human genome plan with both an NIH and a DOE component. This committee will meet at the end of August and prepare a draft report, which will then be considered by the DOE Health and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (HERAC) and by the NIH Human Genome Advisory Committee.

A second working session of this joint planning committee will be held in early October 1989. Both DOE and NIH will approve any revised draft document before it is finalized; the plan will then be submitted to each agency's respective Congressional subcommittees as the aforementioned national plan.

Sample and Information Sharing
Subsequent to the April 18 HGSC meeting, some of the attendees met at Cold Spring Harbor to discuss issues of sharing samples and information. The committee concluded that these issues transcended individual national programs; it was announced that a subcommittee of the international Human Genome Organization (HUGO) will be creating guidelines this summer for distribution to individual national program leaders for comment.

DOE Computational Task Force and NIH Database Working Group
Just as DOE and NIH personnel are attending each other's major genome-related meetings-in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the October 1988 memorandum of understanding between the two agencies-there are also plans to merge the capabilities of the DOE Computational Task Force (see Human Genome Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1, page 5) with the NIH Database Working Group. Since data manipulation and management are global issues, this combined group of respected scientists may eventually become international in both membership and scope.

Other Issues Considered at HGSC Meetings
During the April 18 meeting in Bethesda and the July 18 meeting in Houston, other issues considered were:

  • the policies for sharing individual clones, arrayed libraries, and master arrays; and
  • national laboratory technology transfer issues.

The next HGSC meeting will be held Nov. 5 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


HGSC Meeting Reports can be obtained from HGMIS.


HGMIS Staff

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Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v1n2).

Human Genome Project 1990–2003

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international 13-year effort, 1990 to 2003. Primary goals were to discover the complete set of human genes and make them accessible for further biological study, and determine the complete sequence of DNA bases in the human genome. See Timeline for more HGP history.

Human Genome News

Published from 1989 until 2002, this newsletter facilitated HGP communication, helped prevent duplication of research effort, and informed persons interested in genome research.