Though the SNP Consortium is scheduled to wrap up its initial goals at the end of this year, don’t count on its presence dying down. The group of pharmas, biotechs, and public-sector research teams assembled around the common SNP-map goal may just find another goal and keep on going.
According to consortium chair Arthur Holden, the organization’s first objective, a representative genome-wide SNP map, “has been a smashing success.” The target was to find 300,000 common SNPs, and the output has been about 1.6 million during the last two and a half years. Last fall, the sequencing was completed, and the last of the bioinformatics is now underway. An incidental goal of studying the allele frequency of some SNPs across ethnic populations should also be done by the end of the year. Research participants Whitehead, Washington University, Sanger Centre, and Orchid BioSciences should have complete frequency data for “anywhere from 60 to 120 SNPs,” Holden says.
Holden contends that the consortium did more than just produce data — it proved the efficiency of the cooperative model for large-scale research projects. “We can get in and do a project with enormous productivity, much more so than any of the commercial models,” he says. “There’s been tremendous support for it.”
As for what’s in the cards next, there’s no definite word. One particularly tantalizing task would be building a profile of haplotype structure, Holden says, but he won’t be more specific. “It’s just one of these things that we have to stay tuned to,” he says. “I don’t think it’s a fait accompli either way.”
— Meredith Salisbury