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Ottawa institute spearheads ambitious international regulome project


Ottawa, ON – May 6, 2004 – Dr Michael Rudnicki, director of the Stem Cell Centre and senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), has announced the formation of an international consortium uniting leading world scientists to elaborate the regulatory factors that control gene expression from the human genome.

It is firmly held that the outcome of such a venture could lead to vast improvements in the fight against debilitating diseases.

"By working together, we can systematically and efficiently conduct this third generation genomics project to completely map the regulatory networks that control gene expression – the regulome," he says. "Thanks to this collaboration, we will eventually possess the complete circuit board of the genetic processes that regulate the formation and function of the over 200 cell types that make up the human body."

The announcement capped a three-day conference that featured presentations from leading scientists and researchers in Canada, the UK, France, Singapore, Italy, and the US. The conclusions of those discussions led to the development of a white paper, describing the objectives and purpose of the group to be known as the International Regulome Consortium.

In 1990, the international Human Genome Project was launched – a massive project that sought to identify all of the approximately 30,000 genes in human DNA. A working draft of the entire human genome sequence was announced in June 2000, with a more complete sequence published 2003. It was immediately hailed as one of the most important breakthroughs in science.

This discovery eventually led to a second generation of research to identify all the proteins encoded by the genes with a view to understanding their role in normal tissue and the protein alterations in disease states. The International Regulome Consortium proposes a third-generation genome project that will delineate how genes are switched on and off to regulate the amount of protein made. The project will define the genetic circuit board that controls the expression of genes in cells during the formation of tissues and organs in the body. The implications of such a profound understanding would be tremendous – leading to groundbreaking advances in the fight against many complex diseases.