NIH lays out plan to work exome data into clinical research

NIH headquarters

Having seen the cost of exome sequencing tumble in recent years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has decided now is the time to jump-start its genomic medicine program. The upshot is more clinical research programs will soon have access to exome sequencing capabilities and NIH support with management of the resulting data.

NIH has branded the two-year plan the Clinical Center Genomics Opportunity (CCGO) and committed to the sequencing and analysis of 1,000 exomes. Work is due to begin this summer, with NIH selecting projects that will benefit most from the support. NIH will sequence up to 300 exomes at its Intramural Sequencing Center for the chosen programs. Investigators will also benefit from NIH support with the management and interpretation of the data.

Dr. Daniel Kastner, scientific director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, summed up the thinking behind the plan in a statement: "We're trying to build infrastructure and apply genomic approaches to many different clinical research challenges. CCGO is a way of laying the groundwork for this pipeline." In the past, budget and organizational constraints have limited the use of genomic tools at NIH.

Declining costs are helping NIH broaden its use of exome sequencing, which now sets the agency back $600 a time. Use of existing capabilities--such as the sample-processing and informatics assets at the NIH Clinical Center--will help keep costs down, a consideration for an organization with a flat budget. NIH has ambitions beyond CCGO--which it said gives it a toehold in genomics--and has plans to expand its activities.

"At some time in the future, I imagine we will be sequencing everybody--maybe full whole-genome sequencing. But there's a lot we need to learn from here to there," NIH deputy director Dr. Michael Gottesman said.

- read the NIH release

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