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Human Genome News Archive Edition

Human Genome News, January 1991; 2(5)

Working Group Hears Sequencers

The second meeting of the NIH-DOE Joint Sequencing Working Group was held on September 29 in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Several scientists engaged in large-scale sequencing projects were invited to present the current status of their sequencing efforts and to participate in discussions.

DOE and NIH staff also reported briefly on new program activities:

  • DOE has embarked on a project to produce sequence tagged sites from human cDNAs.
  • NIH has issued a Request for Applications for "Feasibility Studies for Large-Scale DNA Sequencing of Regions of High Biological Interest."

Cost Determination

The actual cost of DNA sequencing, particularly large-scale sequencing, is not easy to determine at the moment. In an attempt to come to terms with this issue, the investigators who reported on their sequencing projects were asked to include cost estimates. Participants agreed that for purposes of assessing costs, sequencing begins with an isolated cosmid (or equivalent) with the DNA ready to be subcloned into M13 and ends with assembly of the final sequence, ready for publication or submission to a database.

Working group discussions made clear that estimating costs is difficult for a number of reasons. Lab- to-lab sequencing costs vary because of these factors:

  1. Use of different sequencing technologies,
  2. Amount of technology development in a given project,
  3. Level of accuracy of finished sequence, and
  4. Overhead costs.

The committee felt that sequencing cost estimates should incorporate technology development because the only sequencing projects being funded are those that include significant technology development.

The working group recommended that the NIH National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR) attempt to establish a standard means for determining current costs as a baseline to which future charges can be realistically compared. Accordingly, NCHGR has contracted with a fiscal consultant to review sequencing costs in a number of laboratories and to help establish a model for measuring the impact of new technologies on reducing sequencing costs.

Technology Development

The working group discussed ways to stimulate new sequencing technology development. They agreed that NIH and DOE should encourage grantees to seek out investigators from other disciplines who might contribute to technology advancement. Most new development will take place in the context of established sequencing efforts.

Finally, participants discussed how DOE and NIH could communicate more effectively with the larger scientific community to counteract the mistaken impression that large-scale sequencing of human DNA is a major component of the current research program. The working group agreed that articles should be published in prominent journals to publicize these facts:

  1. Most NIH Human Genome Program funds are devoted to genetic and physical mapping, with only 15% going to sequencing technology development.
  2. Most NIH sequencing technology development projects, namely, yeast, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Escherichia coli, are examining model organisms, which are of interest to many investigators.

The next meeting of the working group will be held in conjunction with the Cold Spring Harbor Genome meeting in May.

For a list of members, see HGN 2 (2): 4 (July 1990). Invited participants are listed below.

Invited Participants

  • Frederick R. Blattner - University of Wisconsin
  • George M. Church - Harvard Medical School
  • Richard A. Gibbs - Baylor College of Medicine
  • Bruce A. Roe - University of Oklahoma
  • J. Craig Venter - National Institutes of Health
  • Richard K. Wilson - Washington University School of Medicine

Reported by Jane L. Peterson
Chief, Research Centers Branch
and Mark S. Guyer
Assistant Director for Program Coordination

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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 (v2n5).

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.