The rat will be the next target for publicly funded gene sequencing efforts in the United States, Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) told his advisory council this week.
Until recently, no researcher would have considered taking on the burden of another mammal's genome while jammed sequencing centers worked through the human and mouse. But high-throughput labs at the Whitehead Institute in Boston, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California, have added new machines and increased their capacity some 10-fold, says Robert Waterston, director of the Washington University center. Now their output, plus that of Britain's Sangre Center, is "enough to do a working draft of a mammalian genome in 4 to 5 months," Waterston told the council. As a result, the NHGRI-funded centers want to sequence the rat, mouse, and human genomes in parallel--if NHGRI and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute can carve out funds from the still undecided 2001 budget.
Another mammalian sequence, says Raju Kucherlapati from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, would "really help with [interpreting] the human genome."