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Human Genome News, May 1994; 6(1)

NIH NCHGR Genome Program Reorganizes

Changing Technology, Research Direction Require Flexibility

The rapid pace of today's technology revolution poses management challenges for any technology-based research organization. This is particularly true for genome research, in which specific goals are completed and new ones set. Now in its fifth research year, the NIH National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR) has reorganized its genome program administration to foster and stay abreast of new technology developments and remain flexible in responding to changes in research direction precipitated by those developments.

The new organization scheme acknowledges that large, multicomponent projects are central to all aspects of NCHGR-sponsored genome research. Spreading these larger components across the entire program will enable better advance planning and communication among the staff with respect to policy and administrative and management practices. This in turn will lead to more uniformity and consistency in decision making and interaction with grantees.

When NCHGR was established in 1989, the scientific component was organized according to the administrative mechanism by which grants were awarded. This plan distributed the workload and focused on getting the research program up and running as soon as possible. Projects funded by þR01" single-investigator grants were managed by the Research Grants Branch, whereas larger, multidisciplinary projects were funded and managed by the Centers Branch. The Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) Branch, begun as part of the Research Grants Branch, became a separate branch in 1992.

As goals of the first 5-year plan began to be met and new challenges presented themselves, NCHGR reorganized its research program to reflect new technology advances and prepare for future ones. "Genome science was evolving so rapidly," says Mark Guyer, NCHGR Assistant Director for Program Coordination, "we recognized it would be most efficient if the program were organized to be as flexible and responsive to technology developments as possible. It would not be surprising if further organizational changes were needed in 4 to 5 years."

In addition, he says, the new organization ensures that all program staff manage grant portfolios that include cutting-edge projects and allow the staff to gain experience with a variety of technologies and funding mechanisms. The program branches were reorganized and renamed to reflect most closely the way genome science is likely to develop over the next few years. Each branch will manage a set of large, multidisciplinary Genome Science and Technology Center projects (called GESTECS) and a set of regular research (R01) grants, pilot projects, conference grants, and other funding mechanisms in support of technology development in a particular research area.

The new branches are briefly described below. The Sequencing Technology Branch is featured in this issue; the other branches will be described in future issues.

Mapping Technology Branch (301/496-7531).

Bettie Graham, Chief; Elise Feingold, Program Director; Midge Bajefsky, Grants Technical Assistant: Supports research with special emphasis on technology development to improve the efficient construction, annotation, resolution, information content, and usefulness of genetic and physical maps. Specific areas of interest include strategies for identifying genes, coding regions, and other functional elements in genomic DNA and techniques for high-throughput mapping and sequencing of cDNA. This branch is also the NCHGR focal point for training, career development, and special programs. Its staff plan and administer programs of individual pre- and postdoctoral fellowships, institutional training grants, career awards, minority scientist awards, international collaborations, short courses, and chromosome-specific workshops and other meetings.

Mammalian Genomics Branch (301/496-7531).

Jane Peterson, Chief; David Benton, Director, Genome Informatics Program; Jeffrey Schloss, Program Director; Molly Hilty, Grants Technical Assistant; Asli Yucel, Grants Technical Assistant: Administers and supports research on the highly efficient construction of complete genetic and physical maps of mammalian chromosomes and genomes and on the sequencing of large (megabase) regions of mammalian DNA. The branch also serves as the focal point for development of the GESTEC program and supports research in genome informatics (including database research, development, and maintenance) and research into algorithms and techniques for genomic analysis.

ELSI Branch (301/402-4997).

Eric Juengst, Chief; Elizabeth Thomson, Genetic Services Research Coordinator; Wanda Seawright, Grants Technical Assistant: Fosters public education and discussion of ELSI concerns and supports research to anticipate and resolve such issues arising from human genome research. Investigating ELSI issues concurrently with scientific advances is a novel approach prompted by concern about the responsible use of information generated by genome technologies. The ELSI program has defined three priority areas of research: (1) clinical practices to introduce new genetic services, (2) access to and use of personal genetic information by parties outside the clinical setting, and (3) public and professional understanding of concepts and issues surrounding human genetics.

Sequencing Technology Branch (301/496-7531).

Bob Strausberg, Chief; Carol Dahl, Program Director; Ommie Smith, Grants Technical Assistant: See the article NCHGR Sequencing Branch States Goals for a detailed description of this branch.


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Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v6n1).

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.