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Biden Hails Recovery Act’s Genomics Goal

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – US Vice President Joseph Biden today said that last year’s stimulus bill has funded a number of scientific projects that will pay off long-term dividends, and pointed to human genome research as a critical component of biomedical advancement and the mission of the National Institutes of Health and as a stimulus bill success story.

Biden made the statements as he released a new report on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that described four areas that received ARRA support and in which the US may achieve major breakthroughs.

Among these advances, Biden said, will be the lowering of the price to map a human genomes to less than $1000 within five years, which would enable researchers to sequence 50 human genomes for the cost of one today.

Other ARRA-funded advances that the administration wants to see achieved will be to cut the cost of solar power in half by 2015, to reduce the cost of batteries for electric vehicles by 70 percent by 2015, and doubling US renewable energy capacity and renewable manufacturing by 2012.

“From the beginning, we have been a nation of discovery and innovation – and today we continue that tradition as Recovery Act investments pave the way for game-changing breakthroughs in transportation, energy, and medical research,” Biden said.

“We’re planting the seeds of innovation, but private companies and the nation’s top researchers are helping them grow, launching entire new industries, transforming our economy and creating hundreds of new jobs in the process,” the VP added.

"The Recovery Act funding is not only producing thousands of jobs in the biomedical research community, it is also helping speed important medical discoveries that will benefit the health of Americans nationwide," National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said.

According to Biden and the report, called The Recovery Act: Transforming the American Economy through Innovation, lowering the costs of DNA sequencing will enable genomic medicine to become a routine part of medical care.

The ARRA bill included a total of $10 billion for NIH, including $8.2 billion for scientific research, $500 million for repair, improvements, and construction at the NIH campus, $1 billion for repairs and improvements at NIH-funded institutions, and $300 million for scientific equipment at NIH-funded institutions.

Recovery Act funding is supporting the sequencing of more than 1,800 complete genomes, more than 50 times the 34 genomes that have been sequenced so far without ARRA funding. Those sequencing projects will be conducted in various studies, projects, and disease groups, according to the report.

ARRA funds have supported seven research projects so far that aim to lower the cost of genome sequencing, including research conducted by Pacific Biosciences on development of its single molecule, real time, or SMRT, DNA sequencing technology.

According to the White House’s report, around $10 million in ARRA money has already been set aside for studying the genomes of people with schizophrenia, and part of the $64 million in funding for autism spectrum disorders is going support ASD-focused projects being conducted by multiple NIH-funded genome sequencing centers.

The report added that $396 million in ARRA funding has gone to support research into cardiovascular disease, including work to sequence the DNA of participants in the Framingham Heart Study.

And Recovery Act funding is providing funding to the Cancer Genome Atlas project to include 20 additional cancer types, the report said.

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