Germany may have been a minor player in the human genome sequencing project, but it is making a bid for the big leagues in the next wave of functional genomics research. On 30 March, German Research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn announced that the government will channel $175 million over the next 3 years into a National Genome Research Network involving at least 16 universities, seven Max-Planck Institutes, and five national research centers.
The new program is intended to "put Germany in the forefront of public support for the systematic functional analysis of genes and the use of those research results in the fight against widespread diseases," Bulmahn said.
A "core area" consortium in the new network, made up of big nonuniversity research centers, will get about 38% of the money. Funding will be divided between four national research centers--the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, the German Research Center for Biotechnology in Braunschweig, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, and the National Research Center for Environment and Health in Munich--and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin.
A nearly equal share will go to a "disease-oriented genome network" that will include an array of research institutes at 16 universities. The main focus will be on functional genomics related to five types of disease: cardiovascular disorders, cancer, problems of the nervous system (including Alzheimer's disease), infectious diseases, and environment-related illnesses such as asthma.
The third main category of funding--about $32 million--is proteomics and bioinformatics research, which will fund work at several university and nonuniversity institutes. In addition, $10 million will be spent to study the ethical, social, and legal impacts of genomics research.
While many scientists welcomed the initiative, some worry that its 3-year time frame--with no clear guarantee of long-term research money--might limit its impact. Germany's main opposition party, the Christian Democrats, has called for even more funding for functional genomics research, as has the nation's main basic research granting agency, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.
Press release from the German Education and Science Ministry (in German) 
The German Cancer Research Center 
The German Research Center for Biotechnology 
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine 
The National Research Center for Environment and Health 
Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics