Over the next 5 years, the group, called the Metrology for Gene Expression Program, will try to "improve the quality, reliability and comparability of gene expression measurements with microarrays," the agency said in a statement.
To these ends, the group will work with microarray tool vendors and users in order to "evaluate sources of error and variability in measurement." From this, the groups hopes to "develop reference data, reference materials and measurement methods to enable quality assurance for the chemistry, detection methods and information processing used in microarray analysis."
To illustrate one challenge in standardizing gene-expression data, the NIST said that one experiment using three different microarray platforms to measure the same sample found that "under the most stringent criteria the three agreed on only four out of 275 genes identified."
"Enormous quantities of gene-sequence data are pouring out of labs thanks to dramatic gains in DNA sequencing technology, but that's only a start," NIST said. "The real question is how genetic information translates into biological activity."
The External RNA Control Consortium, a group of almost 50 organizations from industry, academic labs, federal agencies and other key stakeholders, helped "inspire" the group, it said.