This week, the National Human Genome Research Institute kicked off the strategic planning process for the research and funding priorities it will use starting in 2020. For the genomics community, this represents an important crossroads as DNA-sequencing technology matures and the applications it powers broaden considerably. And you too can get involved with this process.
At the annual Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference taking place in Orlando this week, NHGRI Director Eric Green updated genomic scientists about the new planning process and asked for their help. During the next two years, the institute will host a series of workshops and town halls to engage researchers and the public about how and where genomics funding should be deployed in the coming decade.
According to Green, certain areas that have been priorities for the institute in the past — such as cancer genomics or the human microbiome — are now attracting significant funding from other sources and have matured enough that NHGRI no longer has to be a primary driver. Going forward, he said, these areas will largely be considered outside the institute’s scope.
While high-priority areas will only be finalized through the planning process, Green said that NHGRI will focus on categories where it has a unique role to play. Technology development, for instance, will continue to be important. NHGRI’s past funding of novel sequencing technologies is widely credited with the exponential reductions in costs to analyze DNA, which has made it feasible to sequence millions of human genomes. All priorities will fit within the institute’s mandate to improve human health.
NHGRI began as the National Center for Human Genome Research in 1989 to spearhead NIH’s efforts in the Human Genome Project. It has since expanded its bailiwick to technology development, disease characterization, and initiatives spurred by the availability of the human genome sequence.
During the next two years, NHGRI will be using interactions with scientists and the public to take stock of the genomics field and where its funds can make the most difference. The landscape has shifted rapidly from the institute’s early days, when it set the direction for much of the genomics community around the world. In 2020 and beyond, the bulk of genomics research will be funded by sources other than NHGRI, Green said.
To learn more, check out the website, where you can sign up to receive status updates, check for town hall dates, and read about planning progress.