The Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has been awarded a $156 million, four-year grant to use the powerful tools of DNA sequencing to unlock the secrets of cancer and other human diseases.
The grant is among the largest awarded to Washington University and one of only three given by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to U.S. sequencing centers. The funds also will be used to improve scientists' understanding of the human genome and to sequence the genomes of non-human primates and microbes.
The three sequencing centers have a proven track record in genome sequencing, which involves spelling out the sequences of letters - A, C, G and T - that make up the genetic codes of all living organisms. The latest funding adds a new dimension to sequencing efforts by focusing on disease genes, particularly those involved in cancer.
"The Human Genome Project gave us the blueprint of the human genome, and now we're ready to comb that genome to find genetic changes that underlie the development of cancer and sustain its growth," says Richard Wilson, Ph.D., director of Washington University's Genome Sequencing Center and a leader in the worldwide scientific collaboration that produced the first human genome sequence in 2000. "We strongly believe that a genome-wide understanding of cancer will ultimately lead to the development of new diagnostic tests and more effective treatments."
The grant underscores the expertise of the Genome Sequencing Center, which has been funded by the NHGRI since 1990 and has been a world leader in the innovative high-speed sequencing of genomes, from primitive bacteria to complex humans. "We are extremely proud to once again play a leading role in genome sequencing, this time with a focus on understanding human health and disease," says Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton.