Progress, and Applications
of the Human Genome Project
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program
Human Genome News Archive Edition
Human Genome Quarterly, Spring 1989; 1(1)
The Human Genome Initiative was proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy in 1986 following the completion of a human genome project feasibility workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In April 1987 the initiative was endorsed by a report from the Department's Health and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (HERAC). The HERAC report urged DOE and the nation to commit to a large, long-term, multidisciplinary, technological undertaking to order and sequence the human genome.
Involvement in this initiative was seen as a consequence of DOE's demonstrated expertise in handling projects of this size and scope, and of the commitment of the Office of Health and Environmental Research (OHER) to evaluating the health effects of energy-related agents and to utilizing DOE resources for beneficial applications in biology and medicine. A basic understanding of the effects of damage to the genome was seen as a vital contribution to this mission.
Subsequent reports from the National Academy of Sciences and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment supported the HERAC report by endorsing a major national effort at a sustained level of $200 million annually. The initiative was seen as having substantive long-term impacts on basic science and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as on the practice of medicine.
The long-range goal of this dedicated research is to develop and provide the broad array of resources and technologies that will allow the complete characterization of the human genome at the molecular level.
The near-term objectives of the initiative, which received program status in 1987, are to:
Research and development in each of these areas is progressing in DOE national laboratories, universities, and the private sector at an FY89 support level of $17.5 million.
The ordered chromosome-specific DNA fragments currently being produced will someday be decoded into a reference human genome sequence of 3.5 billion base pair subunits. Such sequence information will greatly advance our understanding of gene function, especially in the area of genetic diseases and as a basis for determining individual sensitivity to radiation and environmental chemicals. However, the inclusion of an intensive sequencing effort in this program must await a significant improvement in the cost effectiveness of DNA sequencing technologies.
The two most active federal agencies in this area of research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and DOE, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate cooperation and coordination of genome research and development and to establish a joint advisory committee to coordinate these activities. The memorandum also establishes an interagency working group in which staff members of NIH and DOE meet regularly to discuss research of mutual interest, as well as agency priorities. In October 1988, DOE established a Human Genome Steering Committee, composed of key DOE-supported scientists, to help coordinate the Department's multidisciplinary genome research and development activities.
Submitted by Dr. Benjamin J. Barnhart
DOE Human Genome Program Manager
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