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Human Genome News Archive Edition

Human Genome News, November 1992; 4(4)

First South-North Human Genome Conference

The First South-North Human Genome Conference was held May 12-15 in Caxambu, Brazil. About 200 participants from 22 countries assembled to envision strategies that would enable developing nations to participate in the Human Genome Project. Main conference sponsors were the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Brazilian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, whose president, Sergio Pena (Federal University of Minas Gerais), chaired the organizing committee. Other financial support was provided by a number of international and Brazilian agencies.

Major Conference Themes

  • The impact of the Human Genome Project on the developing world.
  • Human genetic diversity in the context of the Human Genome Project.
  • The practice of molecular biology in developing nations.

Meeting Highlights

Georgio Bernardi (Institut Jacques Monod, Paris) spoke on genome organization, introducing the concept of isochores. Cassandra Smith (Boston University) summarized her group's progress with the mapping of chromosome 21. Lap Chee Tsui (Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto) described finding the cystic fibrosis gene. Phyllis McAlpine (University of Manitoba) examined the question of gene nomenclature.

J. Craig Venter (formerly with NIH, now at the Institute for Genomic Research) described his strategy of gene identification by expressed sequence tag/cDNA. His presentation emphasized two points:

  • the cost of establishing a competitive laboratory (at a few hundred thousand dollars) is within reach of Third World countries, and
  • developing countries could advance technologically and contribute effectively to the overall effort by studying the genomes of relevant organisms, such as parasites or major crop plants.

Nancy Wexler (Columbia University) reviewed her work with the Venezuelan Lake Maracaibo population that led to mapping the Huntington's chorea gene to chromosome 4. This project represents significant South-North collaboration.

In discussing how Third-World countries could simplify and adapt molecular biology techniques, Pena described his team's development of nonisotopic probes and techniques for in-gel hybridization; he stated that the next frontier for the Third World will be the development of practical nonisotopic DNA sequencing techniques. Sakol Panyim (Mahidol University, Thailand); Onesmo ole-MoiYoi (International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases, Kenya); and Pedro Leon (University of Costa Rica) showed how elegant genomic studies can be accomplished in the Third World.

Recent methodological advances now permit the launching of the worldwide Human Genome Diversity Project, expected to be a proving ground for North-South collaboration in gathering information on ancient human populations. Conference attendees recommended that (1) the work begin soon because many key populations are at risk of becoming extinct or losing their genetic distinctiveness, (2) Third-World research groups should be involved fully in the study, and (3) appropriate technology should be transferred to these research groups.

The activities of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) and UNESCO in the international coordination of the Human Genome Project were summarized, and Walter Bodmer (Imperial Cancer Research Fund) announced plans for establishing a Latin American office of HUGO.

The Second South-North Genome Conference will take place in Bangkok in October 1993.


Reported by Sergio Pena
Federal University of Minas Gerais

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Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v4n4).

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.