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NHGRI Seeks DNA Sequencing Technologies For Medical Use

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today awarded more than $20 million in grants to develop innovative sequencing technologies inexpensive and efficient enough to sequence a person’s DNA as a routine part of biomedical research and health care.

"The ability to comprehensively sequence any person’s genome is the type of quantum leap needed to usher in an age of personalized medicine where healthcare providers can use an individual’s genetic code to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases," said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., acting director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

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DNA sequencing costs have fallen dramatically over the past decade, fueled in large part by tools, technologies and process improvements developed as part of the successful effort to sequence the human genome. NHGRI subsequently launched programs in 2004 to accelerate the development of sequencing technologies and the rate of reduction of genome sequencing cost. Significant progress has been made towards the goal of producing high quality genome sequence of 3 billion base pairs — the amount of DNA found in humans and other mammals – for $100,000. Ultimately, NHGRI’s vision is to cut the cost of whole-genome sequencing of an individual’s genome to $1,000 or less, which will enable sequencing as part of routine medical care.

"A new generation of sequencing technologies is stepping in front of the already impressive technologies that enabled initial sequencing of the human genome," said Jeffery Schloss, Ph.D., NHGRI's program director for technology development. "We continue to seek further innovation to enable routine sequencing of genomes to advance scientific knowledge and healthcare."

The new grants will fund eight investigator teams to develop revolutionary technologies that would make it possible to sequence a genome for $1,000, as well as three investigators developing nearer-term technologies to sequence a genome for $100,000. The collective approaches incorporate many complementary elements that integrate biochemistry, chemistry and physics with engineering to enhance the whole effort to develop the next generation of DNA sequencing and analysis technologies.