New Teams Join Human Genome Project

Three new labs are joining the government's human genome sequencing project this month. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in Bethesda, Maryland, is awarding $15 million to bring the new members--two academic labs and a commercial firm--on board, raising the number of U.S. partners in this effort to seven, an NHGRI spokesperson confirmed today. Their goal: Produce a 90% complete "working draft" of the human genome for public release next spring and a 99.99% finished version by 2003.

The decision raises the NHGRI kitty for human genome sequencing to nearly $100 million per year through 2002. The principal investigators leading the newly funded teams are Maynard Olson at the University of Washington in Seattle ($7 million per year); Douglas Smith, co-director of the sequencing center at Genome Therapeutics Corp. of Waltham, Massachusetts, the first commercial firm to take part ($5 million); and Ronald Davis of Stanford University ($3 million). They join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, which won larger NHGRI grants in March (Science, 19 March, p. 1822). Other members of the international network are the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California, and the nonprofit Sanger Centre in Hinxton, U.K.

Smith says his group will work closely with the Sanger Centre, focusing mainly on sequencing chromosome 10. The Stanford group, says Davis's colleague Nancy Feldspiel, will contribute some DNA data but, more significantly, develop robotic instruments to make genome work more efficient. Because Olson's grant had not been finalized at press time, he could not provide details, but other grantees say he is considering teaming up with Incyte Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Palo Alto, California, to sequence unspecified areas of the genome.