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NHGRI and the Human Genome Project, SARS, Rothberg, and Salaries


Five years ago, Genome Technology reported on the community celebration for the completion of the Human Genome Project. Of course, since then, the debate has continued about how to define "complete" — and even today, scientists are busily adding to the information contained in the reference human genome. In the ensuing time, the estimate of how many genes are in the genome has shrunk. A study with lead author Michele Clamp at the Broad was published late last year in PNAS bringing the number to 20,500; some scientists contend that it's lower still.

NHGRI took the Human Genome Project completion opportunity to look ahead, and in GT we covered the institute's blueprint of future plans. A number of initiatives have emerged in line with that blueprint in the time since, such as ENCODE, the Cancer Genome Atlas, the 1,000 Genomes Project, and the major funding program for next-generation sequencing technologies. Last June, the ENCODE team published results of its large-scale pilot project to understand functional elements in 1 percent of the human genome; by October, the consortium had kicked off a second phase to expand on the initial findings.

Another article five years ago updated readers on the status of the newly understood SARS virus, which had been identified by Joe DeRisi's team and for which diagnostic tools were already being developed. While the amount of ink going toward coverage of SARS has dropped precipitously in the past five years, the virus has certainly not faded from the biomedical radar. Earlier this year, for example, Abbott won exclusive rights to distribute a respiratory viral panel from Luminex Molecular Diagnostics outside the US. That panel included, among other things, a test to detect SARS.

In last year's June issue, GT reported that Jonathan Rothberg, founder of Curagen and 454 Life Sciences, had started up a new microfluidics venture called RainDance Technologies. More recently, Rothberg launched another startup, this one called Ion Torrent Systems.

GT's cover story last year was our annual salary survey, a new installment of which will be included in our upcoming July/August issue. The economy in the US has tanked in the year since our last survey, and we will keep you posted on whether that's had an impact on scientists' compensation packages.

The Scan

Gene Linked to Alkaline Sensitivity in Plants Identified

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science have found a locus affecting alkaline-salinity sensitivity, which could aid in efforts to improve crop productivity, as they report in Science.

International Team Proposes Checklist for Returning Genomic Research Results

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics present a checklist to guide the return of genomic research results to study participants.

Study Presents New Insights Into How Cancer Cells Overcome Telomere Shortening

Researchers report in Nucleic Acids Research that ATRX-deficient cancer cells have increased activity of the alternative lengthening of telomeres pathway.

Researchers Link Telomere Length With Alzheimer's Disease

Within UK Biobank participants, longer leukocyte telomere length is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, according to a new study in PLOS One.