Sanger Centre to launch final phase of the human genome sequencing project

Cambridge 22 May 2000The final phase of the human genome project, the international effort to decipher the three million codes which make up the human genetic material, is now underway. The milestone marks the transition from the initial phase of generating a "working draft" of human DNA to the final phase of producing the complete "finished" sequence, as reported by the Sanger Centre in the United Kingdom.

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Some sixteen genome centres around the world from the USA, the European Union, Japan, and China officially began phase two of the human genome project on 9 May. In just fourteen months, researchers have amassed data on most of the human chromosomes. The last remaining information from these centres was sent to public databases over the past month and scientists estimate more than 10.000 DNA letters a minute will have been deposited into these human genome data banks by the middle of June.

Now researchers face the task of producing a "finished" sequence of the human genome, filling the gaps in the sequence and increasing the overall sequence accuracy to 99.99 %. While the draft sequence, established during the first phase of the project, allows researchers to pinpoint most of the human genes, the sequence itself still contains gaps and uncertainties. Yet the working draft is nevertheless useful. By laying out the data so far, scientists have a rough map of human DNA. This will provide a permanent resource for human genetics, which can be used to study the function of genes.

"It's breathtaking to see the DNA sequences arrayed along the human chromosomes from one end to the other", stated Dr. Robert Waterston, Director of the genome sequencing centre at the Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. "The individual contributions have fallen together to yield a global picture. At present, we can turn to plugging the remaining holes."

"The progress in human DNA sequencing has been stunning", commented Dr. Eric S. Lander, Director of the Whitehead Institute, a centre for genome research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "The advances in automation, informatics, and overall organisation at the various centres have combined to help speed the pace of the project", he added.

The "working draft" of the human DNA sequence is available for free to scientists across the world. Researchers from industry, academia, and commercial database companies, who provide information services to bio-technologists scan the information daily. You can discover more details about the human genome sequencing project at the Sanger Centre in the January 2000 VMW article Sanger Centre's scientists speed the search for the secret of life with decoding of human chromosome.


Leslie Versweyveld

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