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NIH-supported work to bolster use of genomic tools in research and medicine

Bethesda, Md., Mon., Aug. 22, 2011 — Researchers today received more than $14 million in grants to develop DNA sequencing technologies that will rapidly sequence a person's genome for $1000 or less. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), awarded the grants to enable the everyday use of DNA sequencing technologies by biomedical researchers and health care providers.

"We are confident that NHGRI grantees will continue to make major breakthroughs in the development of technologies that will eventually lead to the ability to sequence a human genome for $1,000 or less," said NHGRI Director Eric D. Green, M.D, Ph.D. "As genome sequencing costs continue to decline, researchers and clinicians can increase the scale and scope of their studies. We will continue to fund innovative research to accelerate what is known about the genomic basis of human health and disease."

DNA double-helix illustration. Image courtesy of Robert Johnson, University of Pennsylvania.
DNA double-helix illustration. Image courtesy of Robert Johnson,
University of Pennsylvania.

During the past decade, DNA sequencing costs have fallen dramatically (see www.genome.gov/sequencingcosts), fueled in large part by tools, technologies and process improvements developed by genomic researchers. In 2004, NHGRI launched programs to accelerate improvements in DNA sequencing technologies and to drive down the cost. In 2009, the program surpassed its initial goal of producing high-quality genome sequences of roughly 6 billion base pairs — the amount of DNA found in humans and other mammals that receive roughly 3 billion bases from each of their parents — for $100,000. Today, the cost to sequence a human genome using "next-generation" DNA sequencing technologies has dipped below $20,000.

"With advances in a 'third generation' of DNA sequencing technologies, we're moving closer to the point when researchers and health care providers can routinely and rapidly screen a person's, or large numbers of people's, genome using devices that produce highly accurate data," said Jeffery Schloss, Ph.D., NHGRI's program director for technology development.

The new grants fund nine teams to develop revolutionary technologies that can meet the $1,000 per human genome sequence goal. The approaches will integrate biochemistry, chemistry and physics with engineering to develop the third generation of DNA sequencing and analysis technologies.

NHGRI's Revolutionary Genome Sequencing Technologies grant recipients and their approximate funding are:
  • University of California Santa Cruz
    Mark A. Akeson, Ph.D.
    $3.6 million (3 years)
    Optimization of processive enzymes for DNA sequencing using nanopores
  • Washington University in St. Louis
    Wayne M. Barnes, Ph.D.
    $608,000 (2 years)
    Fluorescent amino acid probe of template-strand bases
  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
    Marija Drndic, Ph.D.
    $1.5 million (3 years)
    DNA sequencing using single-layer graphene nanoribbons with nanopores
  • Stratos Genomics, Inc., Seattle
    Mark Kokoris
    $829,000 (2 years)
    Sequencing by expansion
  • Arizona State University, Tempe
    Stuart Lindsay, Ph.D.
    $4.1 million (4 years)
    Instrument to optimize DNA sequencing by recognition tunneling
  • Electron Optica, Palo Alto, Calif.
    Marian Mankos
    $499,000 (2 years)
    DNA sequence imaging using a low energy electron microscope
  • University of Washington, Seattle
    Jay A. Shendure, M.D., Ph.D.
    $1.8 million (3 years)
    Massively parallel contiguity mapping
  • Louisiana State University A&M College, Baton Rouge
    Steven A. Soper, Ph.D.
    $616,000 (2 years)
    Polymer-based modular systems with nanosensors for DNA/RNA sequencing
  • Arizona State University, Tempe
    Bharath R. Takulapalli, Ph.D.
    $916,000 (3 years)
    High speed DNA sequencing by chemical recognition using novel nanopore technology

To read the grant abstracts and for more details about the NHGRI genome technology program, please go to: www.genome.gov/10000368/genome-technology-program/#al-6.

NHGRI is one of the 27 institutes and centers at NIH. The NHGRI Division of Extramural Research supports grants for research and training and career development at sites nationwide. Additional information about NHGRI can be found at www.genome.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


Geoff Spencer

Last updated: November 04, 2011