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Jackson Lab Wins $35M NHGRI Grant to Ramp Up Mouse Genome Database Project

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Armed with the largest single grant in its history, the Jackson Laboratory is making plans to accelerate its Mouse Genome Informatics program to keep up with the pace of the mouse sequencing effort, which is expected to have an initial draft ready by the end of the year.

The $35 million NHGRI grant, awarded to support the Mouse Genome Database (www.informatics. jax.org), “comes pretty close to doubling our current budget,” said Janan Eppig, principal investigator on the grant.

“The mouse is the center of a lot of attention these days,” Eppig said, necessitating rapid expansion of the program in two directions. “On the one end, the mouse is being sequenced, so we need to expand to accommodate that information. On the other end, in the phenotype arena, we have new mutagenesis programs going on and there continues to be a lot of genetically engineered mice being created as well, so we’re expanding phenotype and disease models on that end of the spectrum.”

Although the Mouse Sequencing Consortium has completed only 3x coverage of the mouse genome so far, “Sequencing projects seem to have an exponential pattern so that getting started seems slow but all of a sudden it starts to take off,” Eppig said. “We’re certainly expecting that to happen.”

In addition, recent developments in phenotyping also bring volume-related informatics challenges. “Now that you’re getting a lot of allelic series, and a lot of mutations in genes that you didn’t have before, you have to start thinking about what the data model is and how you really describe phenotypes so that they can be searched and analyzed.”

The MGD includes data on genes and nomenclature, sequences, functional annotations, maps and mapping data, homologous genes with human, rat, and other mammals, polymorphisms, variants, and phentoype and disease models. This comprehensive approach sets the database apart from Celera’s proprietary mouse database, Eppig said. “Celera’s database is very specialized for sequence, but we’re concentrating more on the mouse as a model for human disease so we have the biology as well as the sequence.”

Eppig said the new grant would support 46 researchers, of which 17 will occupy new positions that Eppig said the lab is trying to fill “as soon as we can.”

— BT

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