Yale Receives $4.9 Million Grant for International Genome Study

Yale researchers are taking part in an ambitious, $36 million, three-year pilot study that will test efficient, high-throughput methods for identifying, locating and fully analyzing all of the functional elements contained in a set of DNA target regions.

An international consortium of scientists in government, industry and academia will carry out the project titled the Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE).

The target regions of this venture cover approximately 30 megabases, or about one percent, of the human genome. The project will expand to cover the entire genome if the pilot effort proves successful.

The Yale team, which received a $4.9 million grant, is led by Michael Snyder, Lewis B. Cullman Professor and Chair Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and includes Sherman Weissman, Sterling Professor of Genetics, and Mark Gerstein, Williams Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. Other universities include Stanford, the University of Washington, the University of Virginia, and the University of California at San Diego.

“We are looking for any new coding information, including coding for new transcripts, which, in some cases, will be new genes,” Snyder said. “We are also trying to find which key regulators are binding where in the sequence. This is important in finding out how genes are turned on and off during development.”

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) is funding the project. NHGRI Director Francis Collins, M.D., who led the public effort to sequence all three billion base pairs in human DNA, said the Human Genome Project was a very good foundation, but more exploration is needed.

“Our experimental and computational methods are still primitive when it comes to identifying functional elements that are not involved in protein coding,” Collins said. “With NHGRI’s support, research teams around the world are embarking on a daunting mission: to build a comprehensive ‘parts list’ of the human genome by identifying and precisely locating all functional elements in our DNA sequence.”

The ENCODE pilot effort is being implemented by a consortium because the wide range of technologies that need to be tested and developed is well beyond the scope of any single scientific team.

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