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NHGRI Says $100,000 Genome Grant Program Will Meet 2009 Target

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In late August, the National Human Genome Research Institute awarded more than $20 million to 11 teams under its Advanced Sequencing Technology program, an initiative launched in 2004 with the goal of drastically reducing the cost of DNA sequencing.

The current round of grants is likely the last to support so-called "near-term" technologies, which aim to lower the cost of sequencing a human genome to around $100,000. Next year's awards, outlined in a request for applications issued in early August, will be focused on "revolutionary" technologies that will reduce that cost to $1,000 by 2014.

This year, three out of the 11 grants went to near-term sequencing projects, which fetched a total of $7.15 million, or about a third of the total funding. "I expect that that is the last time we are going to do that under these RFAs," says Jeff Schloss, NHGRI's program director for technology development.

"We see the landscape, and we think that basically the $100,000 genome goal is close to being met," he says. "That does not mean that all the problems are solved. It does not mean the technology is perfect. ... But in terms of a concerted push, the effort now goes toward the $1,000 genome — another 100-fold drop in cost."

Schloss notes that when NHGRI kicked off the Advanced Sequencing Technology program in 2004, "we had stated a goal of about five years for achieving the $100,000 genome, which would put it at 2009, so we are pretty pleased that it seems likely that will be achieved."

Indeed, several groups claim to have already broken that barrier. In February, Illumina said that it had spent $100,000 to sequence a HapMap sample, an African Yoruban man from Ibadan, Nigeria. A month later, Applied Biosystems said that it had sequenced the same sample for $60,000.

To date, however, neither company has either published the genome in a peer-reviewed journal or provided complete details on the quality of the assemblies, the variation they detected, or other parameters that would indicate whether these genomes meet the quality standard that NHGRI has set for the Advanced Sequencing Technology program — the mouse genome assembly that was published in 2002.

Grants for the last round of the $100,000 Genome program went to Mostafa Ronaghi, Steven Benner, and Jingyue Ju.

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