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Biotechnology

The US has picked the DNA centers that will sequence 1 million genomes

September 26, 2018

A US precision medicine initiative is giving out $28.6 million to three gene sequencing centers to begin decoding the genomes of 1 million American volunteers. 

So, what’s it for? The AllofUs study is “one of the country’s most ambitious biomedical research efforts ever undertaken,” according to the National Institutes of Health, which is running the project. It will track the health, diet, and environment of a million people of all races who have handed over their genetic data to the project. So far, more than 110,000 have signed up.

Who: Decoding the DNA of the American volunteers was a coveted job. The winners, announced today, are the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the University of Washington in Seattle.

Only one company, Color Genomics of Burlingame, California, was selected. It will join the Cambridge team and will help provide DNA interpretation and reports—something it does as part of its day-to-day gene testing business.

The sequencing centers picked weren’t exactly outside-the box choices. Some of the same centers led the American part of the Human Genome Project 20 years ago.

Playing catch up: The US gene database will be big … but late to the party. A similar resource in the United Kingdom, the UK Biobank, got under way a decade ago and has been wowing researchers with data on 500,000 mostly middle-aged Britons.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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