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Human Genome News Archive Edition
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Vol. 11, No. 1-2, November 2000

In this issue... 

Available in PDF

HGP and the Private Sector

HGP Milestones

In the News

Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues

Web, Publications, Resources


Meeting Calendars & Acronyms

  • Genome and Biotechnology Meetings
  • Training Courses and Workshops
  • Acronyms

HGN archives and subscriptions

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HGP and the Private Sector: Rivals or Partners?

With the June 26 announcement by the publicly funded Human Genome Project (HGP) and Celera Genomics that the draft sequence of the human genome was essentially complete, the complementary aspects of the public and private sectors sequencing projects were realized.

Since spring 1998, when Celera Genomics announced its sequencing goal, other private companies also have declared their intention to sequence or map genomic regions to varying degrees. Some people questioned whether the HGP and the private sector were duplicating work, and they wondered who would win the race to sequence the human genome. Although the HGP and private companies do have overlapping sequencing goals, their finish lines are different because their ultimate goals are not the same.

In a sense, through its policy of open data release, the HGP has all along facilitated the research of others. Additionally, the HGP funds projects at small companies to devise needed technologies. DOE, NIH, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and other governmental funding sources also are supporting further application and commercialization of HGP-generated resources.

HGP products have spurred a boom in such spin-off programs as the NIH Cancer Genome Anatomy Project and the DOE Microbial Genome Program. Genomes of numerous animals, plants, and microbes are being sequenced, and the number of private endeavors is increasing. Technology transfer from developers to users and participation in collaborative, multidisciplinary projects closely unite researchers at academic, industrial, and governmental laboratories.

Scientific vs Commercial Goals
The HGPs commitment from the outset has been to create a scientific standard (an entire reference genome). Most private-sector human genome sequencing projects, however, focus on gathering just enough DNA to meet their customers needsprobably in the 95% to 99% range for gene-rich, potentially lucrative regions. Such private data continue to be enriched greatly by accurate free public mapping (location) and sequence information. Celeras shotgun sequencing strategy, for example, creates millions of tiny fragments that must be ordered and oriented computationally using HGP research results. Most data at Celera, Incyte, and other genomics informationbased companies are proprietary or available only for a fee. In addition, companies are filing numerous patent applications to stake early claims to genes and other potentially important DNA fragments. See article.

More than the Reference Sequence
DNA sequencing will continue to be a major emphasis for the foreseeable future as gene sequences are surveyed across various populations. Both the DOE and NIH genome programs are continuing to support the development of fully integrated and innovative approaches to rapid, low-cost sequencing.

Other near-term HGP goals from the latest 5-year plan are to enhance bioinformatics (computational) resources to support future research and commercial applications. The HGP also aims to explore gene function through comparative mouse-human studies, train future scientists, study human variation, and address critical societal issues arising from the increased availability of human genome data and related analytical technologies.

The electronic form of the newsletter may be cited in the following style:
Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v11n1-2).

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.