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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
June target for human genome
The genetic data promise new treatments for disease
The first draft of the genetic code for human life will be available on the internet by June.
Time to assemble 12,000 bases
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The announcement by the publicly-funded Human Genome Project (HGP) significantly narrows down the date when the international consortium will publish 90% of the human genome.

This is likely to be before its commercial rival, Celera Genomics, publishes its version - but the latter is likely to be more complete.

The development follows recent controversy over whether all decoded human genes should be freely available or whether companies should be able to patent the information in the course of searching for new cures and treatments for diseases.

Accelerating progress

HGP has now sequenced over two billion of the three billion individual "letters" in the human genome. It is only four months since it passed its first billion.

"It's good news that we're moving so fast. But it's even better news that researchers throughout the world are using this data now to investigate the genetic underpinnings of health and diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to diabetes," said Dr Francis Collins, director of the US National Institute of Health's Human Genome Research Institute.

Reaching the two billion base-pair milestone is "a splendid achievement which will help doctors around the world in their quest to cure disease and advance knowledge," said Dr Michael Morgan, chief executive of the UK's Wellcome Trust Genome Campus.

One mistake per thousand letters

The first draft will be published on the HGP's public database GenBank at a cost of $250m. It will cover 90% of the human genome and be 99.9% accurate thanks to fivefold duplication of the DNA analysis.

The HGP's final version is expected by 2003 and will have at least eightfold duplication.

Celera has said its version will be published later this summer. In January, it claimed to have 2.58 billion bases decoded, compared to the 2.18 billion bases announced yesterday by HGP.

But Celera has said it will only publish its data when it is almost fully assembled. It claims the HGP's data is made up of unconnected fragments whose position on chromosomes is often only vaguely known.

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See also:

08 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Gene company wants to share
06 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Gene firm labelled a 'con job'
27 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Human gene patents defended
10 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Human gene race nears end
03 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Book of life: Chapter one
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