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Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program

Human Genome News Archive Edition

Human Genome News, May 1990; 2(1)

NIH Joins DOE in Newsletter Sponsorship

Bimonthly Publication Schedule Announced
With this first issue of Human Genome News (published previously under the title of Human Genome Quarterly), two important changes are being made to keep the genome community informed of current issues and events.

First, the DOE Human Genome Program welcomes the NIH National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR) as copublisher and contributor. Issues of Human Genome News will contain information from both agencies so that readers may have a consolidated source of information about the genome project.

Second, in order to provide more complete and timely updates, the newsletter will be published six times a year. Features such as the calendar of genome events, meeting highlights, international news, and grant announcements will be continued and expanded.

NCHGR Administers NIH Genome Research Program

The U.S. government's lead biomedical research agency, NIH has long been a key player in genetics and molecular biology research through financial support of research projects in laboratories across the country and through biomedical research conducted in its in-house laboratories. NCHGR, formerly called the Office of Human Genome Research and one of the newest components of NIH, was established last fall to administer the role of NIH in the U.S. Human Genome Project and to bring to the genome effort the experience of NIH in researching biomedical problems.

As the focus for NIH-supported research on the human genome and the genomes of other animals, NCHGR:

  • plans and coordinates genome project research goals,
  • reviews and funds research proposals,
  • develops training programs,
  • helps coordinate international genome research, and
  • communicates advances in genome science to the public.

NCHGR has research interests not only in genetic and physical mapping of the human genome and the genomes of model organisms, but also in technology development, computer management systems for biological information, research training, technology transfer, and the ethical and social impact of the availability of genetic information.

In the fall of 1987, NIH became formally involved in the Human Genome Project when Congress earmarked new funds for FY 1988 for the support of research related to the human genome. This appropriation, to be distributed through NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences, came after much discussion in the scientific community about the feasibility and merit of the Human Genome Project.

Early in 1988, at a meeting of the NIH Ad Hoc Program Advisory Committee on the Human Genome, James B. Wyngaarden, the NIH director at that time, announced plans for an NIH human genome office. This office was to oversee the planning and conduct of NIH-supported genome research and to coordinate NIH activities with those of other agencies, both domestic and international.

Later that year, NIH appointed James D. Watson Associate Director for Human Genome Research and established the Office of Human Genome Research as part of the NIH Director's office. Elke Jordan was appointed Director of the new office, with responsibility for managing and overseeing the genome program's daily activities.

NIH Establishes NCHGR in October 1989

In October 1989, NIH established NCHGR, with Watson as Director and Jordan as Deputy Director, in place of the Director's Office of Human Genome Research. NCHGR is equivalent to other NIH institutes in its authority toaward grants and to plan and direct scientific research.

Located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, the new NCHGR is currently staffed by about 30 scientific, administrative, and clerical employees. NCHGR expects to raise the number of employees to about 40. With a 1990 budget of nearly $60 million, NCHGR program activities include over 140 grants for individual research projects and 16 other research-related grants for genome projects on mapping and sequencing, technology development, computer technology for handling genome research data, and biomedical ethics. Funds will be allocated to support about 135 pre- and postdoctoral training positions. NCHGR plans to fund 3 multidisciplinary genome research centers this year and to increase that number to about 14 in the next few years.

NCHGR research planning and administration is dividedinto several main program areas. Mark S. Guyer, Assistant Director for Program Coordination, ensures that the programs are integrated effectively.

Chief of the Research Centers Branch, Jane L. Peterson oversees funding and operation of multidisciplinary research centers. These centers are designed to combine the talents of biologists, computer scientists, chemists, and scientists from other fields to tackle key genome project research problems and will serve as technical resources for other genome researchers.

Centers will occupy the core of NCHGR's research mission, but individual projects in other laboratories will also play an integral role. Bettie J. Graham is Chief of the Research Grants Branch, which supports research ofindividual investigators who are mapping and sequencing human DNA and the DNA of model organisms.

NCHGR Plans Additions to Management Staff

On May 1, Eric T. Juengst will join the NCHGR staff to run its program on ethical, legal, and social implications of human genome research. He will oversee the administration of grants to researchers in ethics and social policy; coordinate NCHGR research activities with recommendations of the NIH-DOE Working Group on Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues (ELSI); and serve as liaison between NCHGR and the human genome programs of other countries (see related articles, NIH-DOE Joint Working Group on ELSI Established, Joint Ethics Working Group Hosts Workshop, and Juengst To Head NCHGR Ethics Program).

NCHGR has announced plans to add staff to manage other areas of its genome program.

  • Staff will be added to direct programs for developing computer systems to store, manage, and analyze map and sequence information.
  • A position will be devoted to ensuring efficient transfer of genome project technology to the private sector for development, marketing, and use.

For a description of the DOE Human Genome Program and more information on Human Genome Project administration, see Human Genome Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1.

Reported by Leslie Fink, Chief
Office of Human Genome Communication

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The electronic form of the newsletter may be cited in the following style:
Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v2n1).

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.