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An Overview of the Extramural Research Program

Genomic research began with the Human Genome Project (HGP), the international research effort that determined the DNA sequence of the entire reference human genome, completed in April 2003. With the essential completion of the human genomic DNA sequence, all of the original goals of the HGP have been met and several have been exceeded. These accomplishments required the development and improvement of novel technologies and an active program to support technology development.

Advanced methodologies for widely disseminating the information generated by the HGP to scientists, physicians and others are also necessary in order to ensure the most rapid application of research results for the benefit of humanity. Also integral to the HGP was support for training scientists who now use HGP tools and resources to perform research that will improve human health.

Another important facet of the HGP was the momentous implications for individuals and society made possible by the technology development associated with the HGP. This has been recognized since the outset; therefore, another major component of the HGP has been the analysis of the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of our newfound genetic knowledge, and the subsequent development of policy options for public consideration.

Completion of the HGP has opened the 'Genomic Era' in biomedical research, and continuation of a vigorous program of genomic research will be necessary to take full advantage of the historical achievements of the HGP. In February 2011, NHGRI published its most recent plan in the journal Nature: (Charting a course for genomic medicine from base pairs to bedside PDF file). This new strategic vision is organized around five domains of research activities that together chart a progression from basic research elucidating the structure and biology of genomes, to understanding the biology of disease and advancing the science of medicine.

The ultimate goal is to improve the effectiveness of healthcare and advance human health. In order to effectively accomplish our emerging and expanded mission, the extramural research activities were reorganized to appropriately reflect NHGRI's current and future genomics research portfolio and associated activities. A Description of the Reorganization provides a complete picture of the reorganized structure of NHGRI, which includes the extramural program, the intramural program, and the Office of the Director.

The divisions for the Extramural Research Program are:
  • Division of Genome Sciences: Oversees basic genomic research and technology development, as well as major activities such as large-scale genome sequencing.
  • Division of Genomic Medicine: Leads the institute's efforts to move genomic technologies and approaches into clinical applications and care.
  • Division of Genomics and Society: Carries out an expanded program of research related to the many societal issues relevant to genomics research; Incorporates and extends the activities of the institute's Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) program.
  • Division of Extramural Operations: Manages the myriad operational aspects of the institute's Extramural Research Program to ensure the integrity of the institute's grant-making mission, including conducting the review of grant applications and overall grants management.

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Last Updated: April 17, 2013

See Also:

All About the Human Genome Project

Funded Programs and Projects
By Strategic Plan Areas

Division of Intramural Research
Research at NHGRI