Genome Program was conceived in 1986 as an initiative within the DOE
Office of Health and Environmental Research, which has been renamed Office
of Biological and Environmental Research (OBER) (see chart below). The
program is administered primarily through the OBER Health Effects and Life
Sciences Research Division (HELSRD), both directed by David A. Smith until
his retirement in January 1996. Marvin Frazier is now Director of HELSRD,
and OBER is led by Associate Director Aristides Patrinos, who also serves
as Human Genome Program manager. Previous directors and managers are listed
in the table below. OBER is within the Office of Energy Research, directed
by Martha Krebs.
Benjamin J. Barnhart
DOE national laboratories 7
Academic institutions 28
Private-sector institutions 10
Companies, including 11
Small Business Innovation Research
Foreign institutions 7
(Russia, Canada, Israel)
|DOE OBER Mission
Based on mandates from Congress, DOE OBER's principal missions are to (1) develop the knowledge necessary to identify, understand, and anticipate long-term health and environmental consequences of energy use and development and (2) employ DOE's unique scientific and technological capabilities in solving major scientific problems in medicine, biology, and the environment.
Genome integrity and radiation biology have been a long-term concern of OBER at DOE and its predecessors--the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA). In the United States, the first federal support for genetic research was through AEC. In the early days of nuclear energy development, the focus was on radiation effects and broadened later under ERDA and DOE to include health implications of all energy technologies and their by-products.
Today, extensive OBER-sponsored research programs on genomic structure, maintenance, damage, and repair continue at the national laboratories and universities. These and other OBER efforts support a DOE shift toward a preventive approach to health, environment, and safety concerns. World-class scientists in top facilities working on leading-edge problems spawn the knowledge to revolutionize the technology, drive the future, and add value to the U.S. economy. Major OBER research includes characterization of DNA repair genes and improvement of methodologies and resources for quantifying and characterizing genetic polymorphisms and their relationship to genetic susceptibilities.
To carry out its national research and development obligations, OBER conducts the following activities:
Coordination and Resources
The Biotechnology Consortium provides the OBER Associate Director with external expertise in all aspects of genomics and informatics and a mechanism by which OBER can keep track of the latest developments in the field. It facilitates development and dissemination of novel genome technologies throughout the DOE system, ensures appropriate management and sharing of data and resources by all DOE contractors and grantees, and promotes interactions with other national and international genomic entities.
The DOE Human Genome Program communicates information in a variety of ways. These communication systems include the Human Genome Management Information System (HGMIS), projects in the Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues (ELSI) Program, electronic resources, meetings, and fellowships. Some of these mechanisms are described below. For more details, see Research Highlights, ELSI projects.
HGMIS publishes the newsletter Human Genome News, sponsored by OBER. Over 14,000 HGN subscribers include genome and basic researchers at national laboratories, universities, and other research institutions; professors and teachers; industry representatives; legal personnel; ethicists; students; genetic counselors; physicians; science writers; and other interested individuals.
HGMIS also produces the DOE Primer on Molecular Genetics; a compilation of ELSI abstracts; and reports on the DOE Human Genome and Microbial Genome Programs, contractor-grantee workshops, and other related subjects.
Electronic versions of the primer and other HGMIS publications are available via the World Wide Web. HGMIS also initiates and maintains other related Web sites (see DOE Electronic Genome Resources section below and DOE Web Sites above left).
In addition to their print and online publishing efforts, HGMIS staff members answer questions generated via Web sites, telephone, fax, and e-mail. They also furnish customized information about the genome project for multipliers of information (contact: Betty Mansfield at 423/576-6669, Fax: /574-9888).
DOE Electronic Genome Resources
Web Sites. The DOE Human Genome Program Home Page displays pointers to other programs within OBER and the Office of Energy Research. Links are made to additional biological and environmental information and to HGMIS, Genome Database, and other sites.
HGMIS initiates and maintains the searchable Human Genome Project Information Web site. This site contains more than 1700 text files of information for multidisciplinary technical audiences as well as for lay persons interested in learning about the science, goals, progress, and history of the project. Users include almost all levels of students; education, medical, and legal professionals; genetic society and support group members; biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry personnel; administrators; policymakers; and the press.
The site also houses a section of frequently asked questions, a quick fact finder, Primer on Molecular Genetics, all issues of Human Genome News, DOE Human Genome Program and contractor-grantee workshop reports, To Know Ourselves, historical documents, research abstracts, calendars of genome events, and hundreds of links to genome research and educational sites. More than 1000 other Web pages link to this site, resulting in more than 100,000 text file transfers each month. This HGMIS site has received a Four-Star designation from the Magellan Group and the Editor's Choice Award from LookSmart.
Genome-project and related meetings are listed at a Web site, through which users can register and submit research abstracts. Another listed related site discusses issues at the critical intersection of genetics and the court system. This Web page is part of a project to educate and prepare the judiciary for the coming onslaught of cases involving genetic issues and data.
Newsgroup. The Human Genome Program Newsgroup operates through the BIOSCI electronic bulletin board network to allow researchers worldwide to communicate, share ideas, and find solutions to problems. Genome-related information is distributed through the newsgroup, including requests for grant applications, reports from recent scientific and advisory meetings, announcements of future events, and listings of free software and services (email@example.com).
OBER established the Human Genome Distinguished Postdoctoral Research Program in 1990 to support research on projects related to the DOE Human Genome Program. Beginning in FY 1996, the Human Genome Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowships were merged with the Alexander Hollaender Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowships, which provide support in all areas of OBER-sponsored research. Postdoctoral programs are administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, a university consortium and DOE contractor. For additional information, contact Linda Holmes (423/576-3192).
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