Scientists Expect to Complete Human Genome in 2003

Sun Apr 14,10:24 AM ET
By Lee Chyen Yee

  SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Scientists expect to publish next year the complete sequence of the human genome (news - web sites), a development that could revolutionize medicine, the head of a leading genome research organization said.

 "It will be completed in 2003," Lap-Chee Tsui, president of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) told reporters on Sunday.

"Everybody is trying very hard to meet that deadline."

  London-based HUGO is the largest international non-profit organization involved in human genome research.

  The Human Genome Project (news - web sites), a consortium of scientists from the United States, Britain, Japan, France, Germany and China, will establish the complete human genome sequence by spring of 2003, a HUGO statement said.

  In a breakthrough in early 2001, the team published the initial sequence of the human genome in the U.K.-based scientific
  journal Nature. A similar sequence compiled by rival Maryland-based Celera Genomics (news - web sites) Group was also
  published in the Science journal, another scientific publication.

The sequence of 3.1 billion letters of DNA showed humans are made up of about 30,000 to 40,000 genes, far below previous predictions of 60,000 to 100,000.

Tsui said the team's complete sequence, like its initial sequence, would be available publicly.

  When Celera published its draft last year, scientists had limited access to it with some information requiring subscription.

  "It is quite clear that Celera will not be doing any more sequencing and (for) the public project of course, by definition, we are
  going to release it to the public," said Tsui, who was in Shanghai for a four-day human genome conference.

  Tsui also said China was actively involved in the human genome projects in hopes of finding answers to treatment of common
  ailments found in the country.

  "In China, they will probably concentrate on the diseases that are affecting the Chinese population most. For example, liver
  cancer, and a lot of the infectious disease that are more (commonly found) here than other places," he said.

  Tsui said Chinese scientists were also delving into plant genetics and bio-engineering research to improve the quality of its key
  crops such as rice, widely regarded as a basis for studying other grains.

  Scientists said earlier this month they were publishing a draft genome sequence of rice, the staple food for Chinese and a third
  to a half of the world's population, but Tsui said it would take years before its complete sequence could be set in place.