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NHGRI Commits $31.5M to Expand ENCODE Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Human Genome Research Institute this week announced that it has selected the recipients of up to $31.5 million in fiscal 2017 grant funding as part of an effort to expand the scope of the ENCODE Project.

ENCODE, shorthand for ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements, was launched in 2003 to identify all functional elements in the human genome and freely share the data with the scientific community in accessible and interpretable formats. About a year ago, the NHGRI said that it was seeking grant applications for five new initiatives that would expand the project's catalog of functional elements; move toward a general understanding of the roles of these genomic elements in different contexts; develop strategies to apply the program's findings to disease; increase the number of researchers participating in the project; and develop and disseminate new analytical tools to improve the value of ENCODE data.

Researchers at several institutions have now been selected to oversee eight mapping centers that will create comprehensive catalogs of candidate functional elements in the human and mouse genomes in an expanded number of cell contexts. These include groups at the Broad Institute; Baylor College of Medicine; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology; the University of Alabama in Huntsville; The Jackson Laboratory; Stanford University; the Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences; the California Institute of Technology; and the University of California, Irvine.

The NHGRI has also awarded grant funding for five centers that will develop and apply new and generalizable methods for characterizing candidate functional elements identified using ENCODE data. These centers will be run by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Washington; Stanford; Cornell University; the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research/University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Six awards were also issued to groups that plan to develop and use novel statistical, mathematical, and computational methods for improved analysis, visualization, or interpretation of ENCODE data. These include teams at Johns Hopkins University; the Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research; Harvard University; Brigham and Women's Hospital; Stanford; Washington University; the University of Utah; and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The NHGRI has also committed funding for a data coordinating center at Stanford and a data analysis center housed at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Yale University.

"ENCODE has created high-quality and easily accessible sets of data, tools, and analyses that are being used extensively in studies to interpret genome sequences and to understand the consequence of genomic variation," Elise Feingold, a program director in the division of genome sciences at the NHGRI, said in a statement. "These awards provide the opportunity to strengthen this foundation by expanding the breadth and depth of the resource."