Scientists have confirmed that they are on schedule to produce the first draft of the genetic blueprint of humankind by Spring 2000. They have already released sequence data into the public domain corresponding to one quarter of the human genome to help further developments in diagnostics, preventative medicine and disease control.
The researchers from 16 centers representing the international consortium working on the Human Genome Project (HGP) last week attended the Fifth International Strategy Meeting on Human Genome Sequencing held at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus near Cambridge. China has become the latest contributor to the worldwide sequencing effort alongside France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The consortium confirmed that it jointly possesses the necessary sequencing capacity to provide a working draft of 90 percent of the euchromatic (gene rich) part of the human genome by Spring 2000. To date, 739 million base pairs, or roughly one quarter of the human genome, have been deposited in Genbank (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Genbank) in finished or near finished form.
This is a very significant achievement in light of the fact that full scale human DNA sequencing only got underway at the larger centers less than six months ago.
The sequences of several individual chromosomes are nearing completion, and the first of these likely will be announced before the end of the year.
"By 2003, if not earlier, the entire human genome should be completely finished in a form that will stand the test of time," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) which along with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funds human genome sequencing.
"However, scientists do not have to wait until 2003 to take advantage of the achievements of the Human Genome Project," added Dr. Collins. "Working draft data, as soon as it becomes publicly available, is very helpful to scientists today in their efforts to understand the hereditary influences on health and disease and to develop more targeted diagnosis and treatment procedures."
The group reaffirmed its commitment to place all sequence data in the public domain without fees, patents, licenses or limitations on use. Data is available on publicly accessible databases within 24 hours of the time that an assembly of 1000 to 2000 base pairs is obtained.
During the meeting, quality standards were also adopted for the working draft sequence that is on track for next Spring. As useful as the working draft will be, it represents only the only the first phase in this momentous project to understand humankind's genetic past, present and future. Beyond next Spring work will focus on producing a complete, highly accurate and final sequence by 2003.
"Given the value of both the draft and the finished human DNA sequence to scientists around the world, in academia, federal laboratories and private industry, it is only fitting that the sequence itself is being determined by an international team," said Dr. Ari Patrinos, head of the U.S. Department of Energy's human genome program. "Hopefully the partnerships that have developed to sequence the human genome will continue as we begin the even more challenging analysis of all the information that is contained in our DNA."
Speaking after the meeting Dr. Michael Morgan, chief executive of the Wellcome Trust, Genome Campus, said: "This has been an extremely satisfying event, confirming that international collaboration is starting to produce real results on this historic project."
The group has scheduled its next full progress meeting for January 2000.
The Wellcome Trust
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Last Reviewed: September 2006