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DNA sequencing Solid teams, no surprises in NHGRI sequencing awards


The winners of more than $38 million through two NHGRI grant programs for sequencing technology development, announced last October, were narrowed down from a pool of 32 proposals and represent people familiar to the field, according to Jeff Schloss, program director at the genome institute. “There really weren’t any huge surprises here,” he says of the winners of the $100,000 genome and $1,000 genome funding. “We were in general aware of this variety of approaches.”

That’s not to say the institute was disappointed with the turnout. Almost twice as many teams applied as were eventually funded — a total of 18 grants were awarded.

Eleven of the grantees will be working on the nearer-term project, aimed at developing sequencing technology that could bring the cost to sequence a genome down to $100,000, while the remaining seven groups will tackle the longer-term challenge of designing technology to lower that cost even further to $1,000.

Proposals were selected based on “the regular review process,” Schloss says. Reviewers looked for feasibility, expertise for the work, and solid fallback plans in case of problems. Schloss adds that reviewers also judged based on “perceived likelihood that this would actually reach a commercial product.”

Grant recipients were given anywhere from $450,000 to $6.1 million (see grant awardees list, next page). That range is “a reflection of which groups appeared able to put together all the pieces to make sequencing technology in the short term,” Schloss says, “versus groups that had really interesting pieces of the sequencing technology but it wasn’t clear that they could put together a whole system.”

Schloss also points out that the $38 million announced represents only the first wave of recipients who applied by the April 15 deadline. Funding awards for the second group of applicants, who met the October 2004 deadline, are still under review.

— Meredith Salisbury


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