Using Berkeley Lab as its celebratory center, the
Department of Energy announced on Oct. 23 that its Joint Genome Institute (JGI), an
integrated three-laboratory effort to help decipher the human genetic code, surpassed its
ambitious goal of sequencing 20 million base pairs for fiscal year 1998.
Krebs, director of DOE's Office of Energy Research,and Ari Patrinos, director of
DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Sciences, were among the participants at the
Joint Genome Institute celebration held at Berkeley Lab
"This achievement marks an unprecedented ten-fold increase in production output
over the previous year," Martha Krebs, the DOE's director of the Office of Energy
Research, told an assembled group of JGI staffers and news media at the Genome Sciences
Building (84). "With this milestone, the JGI rises to the third position worldwide in
terms of its total contribution of human DNA sequence to public databases, and signals
great promise for completion of the entire project in five years."
Krebs called the program's progress over one year "remarkable." Along with
DOE's Ari Patrinos, director of the Office of Biological and Environmental Sciences, she
praised the JGI for having met and exceeded "what were very ambitious goals we set
for it. It demonstrates the power, not only of the individual laboratories, but of what
can happen when they link together as a system."
The JGI, established in 1996, is a consortium of scientists, engineers and support
staff from the Berkeley, Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories. The JGI has
assumed a key role in the international effort to determine all three billion base pairs
("letters") that comprise the human genome. This worldwide project, the largest
biological undertaking in history, promises untold opportunities to understand the basic
molecular underpinnings of life and to improve human health.
"What we're doing here will change the way biology is being turned out,"
Krebs added. "We're very proud of the role DOE has played, and honored to celebrate
the completion of this first part of the project."
During its first full year of operation, the JGI successfully sequenced over 20 million
base pairs. Thanks to improved technologies (some developed by JGI researchers) and
streamlining techniques, the JGI has been able to reach rates of over 2.5 million base
pairs per month. The JGI's sequencing goal for 1999 is 70 million high-quality bases--30
million finished bases and 40 million "draft" bases.
Thus far, the international human genome sequencing effort has cracked only about seven
percent of the genome's three billion letters, or 195 million bases. An accelerated
five-year plan for the U.S. Human Genome Program calls for the completion of the first
high-quality set of human genome sequences by 2003, two years ahead of the original
The Joint Genome Institute will begin moving into its new Walnut Creek operations
center, the Production Sequencing Facility (PSF), in November. The PSF will provide 56,600
square feet of laboratory and office space, accommodating at its capacity 200 researchers
working in three shifts around the clock.