The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has launched a new round of strategic planning that will establish a 2020 vision for genomics aimed at accelerating scientific and medical breakthroughs.
Since the launch of the Human Genome Project nearly three decades ago, genomics has progressed from an emerging discipline to a vital area of biomedical research and a growing component of medical care, with far-reaching implications for society. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has played a critical role in this expansion of genomics, catalyzing its use in the research supported by the National Institutes of Health, where nearly all institutes and centers are now using genomics to advance their research, as well as in the private sector and in countries around the world.
NHGRI has a rich history of developing strategic plans that have shaped the field of genomics. Our strategic planning during the Human Genome Project (1990-2003) focused on establishing a more complete understanding of the structure of the human genome. NHGRI's 2003 strategic plan focused on expanding the connections of genomics to biology, health and society. Later, NHGRI's 2011 strategic plan described a more complete and ambitious progression from fundamental knowledge of genome structure and function to the fostering of genomic medicine as a key element of contemporary healthcare.
With a new decade rapidly approaching and genomic advances occurring at a breathtaking pace, NHGRI decided to launch a new round of strategic planning - one that aims to produce a new strategic plan in late 2020. This "2020 vision for genomics" will detail the most exciting opportunities for genomics research and its application to human health and disease at the dawn of the new decade. Broad input from NHGRI's diverse set of stakeholders will be critical for success in developing this new strategic plan. Therefore, we endeavor to engage with diverse communities through multiple channels, including workshops, town halls, social media conversations and more.
The current round of NHGRI strategic planning officially began on February 12, 2018, with a presentation by institute director, Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., at the 82nd meeting of the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research. The process will culminate in the publication of the new strategic plan in October 2020 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Human Genome Project.
Scope of Planning
In developing NHGRI's 2020 strategic plan, NHGRI aims to identify, lead, and support paradigm-shifting areas of genomics that will expand the field into new frontiers and enable novel applications to human health and disease. In developing the strategic plan, we aim to be the driving force for highly impactful and broadly applicable progress in genomics that empowers the efforts of other individuals and organizations (many of whom are working at the forefront of their areas of interest).
The institute's organizational mantra, THE FOREFRONT OF GENOMICS®, captures this new approach and reflects the nature of the exciting areas that will be explored during the strategic planning process. With this new focus, we expect to prioritize certain areas described below.
We expect to prioritize discussions of newly emerging areas of genomics, such as those that are not well-defined, lack significant investments, and are not specific to particular diseases or physiological systems. Prototypic examples of these areas include, but are not limited to: genomic technology development; genomic variation and its functional consequences; interactions between the genome and the environment; general aspects of using genomic information in clinical care; research and clinical training; policy development and implementation to enhance data sharing; and the ethical, legal and social implications of genomics.
We expect to include areas in which NHGRI will share leadership, involvement and funding to support the research. Within these "intermediary areas," we believe there are continued opportunities to make important contributions, often in collaboration with research or funding partners, particularly if the goals described in the strategic plan cannot be fully accomplished by NHGRI funding alone. Two representative examples of intermediary areas are: (1) the genomic basis of rare and common disease (and their clinical management), and (2) computational genomics and data science. In both areas, NHGRI has been heavily involved for many years, as have other funding organizations.
We expect to deemphasize areas that are well-established or are being sufficiently funded by other organizations. Though these areas remain important, they are not in need of NHGRI's unique capabilities and attention. In some cases, these will reflect areas that the Institute once emphasized and funded, but for which progress now makes it most appropriate for other organizations to lead future planning and/or funding. Rapidly blossoming fields, such as cancer genomics, microbial genomics and microbiome research, are examples of the research areas in which NHGRI is no longer playing a major role, though we were involved in shaping and supporting these fields in their initial phases.
Initial Focus Areas
In order to organize our conversations with scientific and other communities, we initially plan to explore opportunities in the five areas listed below. While new and cross-cutting areas will almost certainly emerge during the strategic planning process, we believe these five areas will provide an effective framework for capturing the initial input.
- Basic Genomics and Genomic Technologies
- Genomics of Disease
- Genomic and Precision Medicine
- Genomic Data Science
- Society, Education and Engagement