In recent years, researchers have made tremendous progress in sequencing the genomes of humans and other organisms. Scientists use DNA sequence data to help find genes, which are the parts of the genome that code for proteins. However, the protein-encoding component of DNA comprises just a small fraction of the genome, accounting for roughly 1.5 percent of the genetic material of humans and other mammals. There is compelling evidence that other parts of the genome must have important functions, but at present there is only very limited information available about how these other parts work.
"The Human Genome Project has provided us with a wonderful foundation, but obviously having the human genomic sequence is not enough. We must keep on exploring this newfound wealth of knowledge if we are to realize the full potential of genome research to improve human health," said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who led the public effort to sequence all 3 billion base pairs in human DNA.
"Our experimental and computational methods are still primitive when it comes to identifying functional elements that are not involved in protein coding. That has to change. So, 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," Dr. Collins said.
The new effort, which is called the ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project, will be carried out by an international consortium made up of scientists in government, industry and academia. A major aspect of this initiative is a three-year pilot projec
Contact: Geoff Spencer
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute