NHGRI Charts Course for Genomic Medicine

February 11, 2011

This February, we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the initial sequence and analysis of the draft human genome sequence published in Nature with input from thousands of scientists working on behalf of the Human Genome Project. The analysis was a game changer. Before the genome, a researcher might spend months acquiring DNA and trying to identify a gene. After the genome, the researcher could open a web browser and look it up. The sequence and analysis of the human genome accelerated research dramatically.

Publishing a new strategic vision for the field of genomic research is still a lot like trying to catch a moving train but that's what we've done. NHGRI's vision — Charting A Course for Genomic Medicine: From Base Pairs to BedsidePDF file— maps the next steps the field must take to discover medical secrets hidden within the human genome and transfer them to practitioners and patients. Framed in terms of five research domains, the plan spans activities from basic research to how the human genome is organized and functions to clinical applications that will use knowledge of the genome and genomic technologies to improve medical care. The research domains are:

  • Understanding the structure of genomes
  • Understanding the biology of genomes
  • Understanding the biology of disease
  • Advancing the science of medicine
  • Improving the effectiveness of healthcare

We have a great sense of urgency about improving medicine, whether it's testing and prevention, or treatments and cures. We're already seeing successes in cancer, a genomic disease. We can now use powerful new sequencing technologies and comprehensive catalogs of genetic changes that take place in a tumor to attack this most feared illness. In a handful of examples, we already use these strategies to determine the best treatment for a given individual. In the next five years, we anticipate many opportunities for making that kind of progress in different types of cancer through research programs such as The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). This joint project led by NHGRI and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) applies genomics to cancer and incorporates NCI's disease-specific expertise to understanding of cancer.

Because NHGRI's strategic plan moves forward on multiple fronts, we expect it to have a number of audiences. It speaks to genomic researchers who have been making steady progress guided by previous strategic plans. It also offers opportunities for students in basic science, clinical science and clinical medicine as well as students of law, ethics, sociology and public policy. Genomics is permeating many areas of society, as well as science, and the next generation of scholars should be aware of what is happening in this field.

An opportunity to learn more about the field of genomics took place on Feb. 11. The day-long scientific symposium, A Decade With the Human Genome Sequence: Charting a Course for Genomic Medicine, explored issues in contemporary genomics research, illustrated how genomics can accelerate medical discoveries and discussed genomics' impact on individuals, communities and societies. The symposium agenda, speaker biographies, videocasts and powerpoint slides and a transcript of the symposium micro-blog can be accessed at http://genome.gov/symposium2011.

I hope the presentations and the strategic plan inspire you to join me and NHGRI staff in the challenging and rewarding work that must occur over the next couple of decades to accomplish this vision for the field. The plan cannot be tackled alone by NHGRI, the National Institutes of Health or even the United States. We anticipate a global effort, with the research advances shared around the world. We look forward to seeing how you will contribute to the genomic revolution.

Past Comments on the February 11, 2011 Page

  1. Anne (October 22, 2011, 10:59)
    I am curious as to how dna samples are collected for your studies? It is most fascinating, the study of dna.

  2. Amit Chaurasia (August 1, 2011, 23:03)
    I am pretty sure that your efforts will make our life and community free of diseases and sorrow.

  3. Judith Berg Kohn RN MS (March 24, 2011, 10:53)
    Amen! We need to hold a Berne Convention (world congress)for genetic property rights and perhaps a Bill of Rights addition stating that our genetic information is our property and ours alone.

Last Updated: February 28, 2012

Last updated: February 28, 2012