Feds finish human genetics map early

Imagine a federally funded project actually being completed ahead of schedule. That’s exactly what officials of the Human Genome Project announced in mid September. A joint effort of the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, and the U.S. Department of Energy in Washing ton, DC, the project was started in 1990.

Scientists mapping the 3 billion units of DNA that make up the human body’s genome say the project will be completed by the end of 2003, two years early. What’s more, they plan to have a third of the genome sequenced — a process to determine the order of units of genetic information that make up the body’s genetic plan — by 2001. A "working draft" of most of the remaining genome, researchers say, will be completed by 2001 as well.

A competitor, however, promises to map the entire genome first. J. Craig Venter, MD, co-founder and director of Rockville, MD-based Celera Genomics announced recently the private firm would complete the job by 2001. Celera is using a different sequencing technique than that of the National Human Genome Research Institute.