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NHGRI Renews Broad, Wash U, Baylor Large-Scale Sequencing Grants With $116M in 2007 Funding

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The National Human Genome Research Institute has renewed its funding for large-scale sequencing centers at the Broad Institute, Washington University, and Baylor College, earmarking more than $116 million for the three centers in 2007.
 
The centers, which were selected through a competitive, peer-reviewed process, will focus on medical sequencing, with the aim of identifying genes that contribute to common human diseases. The centers will also devote a “significant part” of their effort to the ongoing Cancer Genome Atlas pilot project, NHGRI said.
 
NHGRI is granting $48 million in fiscal year 2007 to the Broad Institute Sequencing Platform at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, $41 million to Washington University’s Genome Sequencing Center, and $27.6 million to the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine.
 
The total funding over the four-year period is expected to be up to $420 million, according to the NHGRI’s request for applications for the program. 
 
NHGRI said that the centers will use “existing technology” to continue large-scale sequencing of “important” targets, with around half of their sequencing capacity dedicated to medical sequencing.
 
The sequencing centers will also conduct research on ways to speed up and to lower the costs of DNA sequencing, and will sequence the genomes of particular organisms associated with disease, such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, and insects.
 
The combined sequence output from the centers, using current technologies, is expected to be about 12 billion base pairs per month. 
 
As part of the Cancer Genome Atlas pilot project, the centers will sequence a “substantial number” of selected gene targets to identify polymorphisms in brain, lung, and ovarian tumors. In addition to the three sequencing centers, TCGA includes seven cancer genome characterization centers, a data collection center, and a biospecimen core reserve.
 
The centers can also use 10 percent of the funding for projects of their own interest, which NHGRI said will show “innovative uses of sequence information.”
 
In order to select new sequencing targets, NHGRI said that three working groups first develop proposals for a set of potential genomes that will advance three lines of research: “identifying areas in genetics research where the application of high-throughput sequencing resources would rapidly lead to significant medical advances; understanding of the human genome; and understanding the evolutionary biology of genomes.”
 
The goal of the target selection process is to “maintain flexibility so the focus of the sequencing program can be adjusted as the state of knowledge improves over the next four years in order to pursue the most biomedically compelling sequencing targets,” NHGRI said.
 
Further information on the selection process is available here.
 
In addition to the large-scale sequencing centers, NHGRI has awarded the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center in Rockville, Md., $7 million, with around half of that coming from intramural funding.
 
As GenomeWeb News reported earlier this month, two centers that received funding for large-scale sequencing in 2003 -- Agencourt Bioscience and the J. Craig Venter Institute’s Institute for Genomic Research/Joint Technology Center -- did not have their funding renewed in the current funding cycle