ENCODE consortium publishes scientific strategy

mponent of these genes, however, makes up just a small fraction of the human genome about 1.5 percent. There is strong evidence that other parts of the genome have important functions, but very little information exists about where these other "functional elements" are located and how they work. The ENCODE project aims to address this critical goal of genomics research.

Launched in September 2003, the ENCODE project is being implemented in three phases: a pilot phase, a technology development phase and a production phase. In the pilot phase, which is expected to last three years, ENCODE researchers are devising and testing high-throughput ways of efficiently applying known approaches to identify functional elements. Their collaborative efforts are centered on 44 DNA targets, which together cover about 1 percent of the human genome, or about 30 million base pairs. The target regions were strategically selected to provide a representative cross section of the entire human genome sequence. Simultaneously, in the second phase of the ENCODE Project, the technology development component, other research groups are striving to develop new technologies designed to widen the array of novel methods and technologies available to be applied to the ENCODE project. Guided by the results of the first two phases, NHGRI will decide how to initiate the production phase and expand the ENCODE project to analyze the remaining 99 percent of the human genome.

"Major challenges lie ahead on the road to a complete encyclopedia of DNA elements," said Elise A. Feingold, Ph.D., NHGRI's program director in charge of the ENCODE project. "Such work is well beyond the scope of any single group. However, by bringing together researchers with a broad range of interests and expertise to work in a highly collaborative setting, we expect that the ENCODE consortium will have the power to achieve a goal of this magnitude."

Among the many hurdles facing the ENCODE consortium is th

Contact: Geoff Spencer
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

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