HC Deb 26 March 1996 vol 274 cc471-2W
Mr. Alton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what participation Her Majesty's Government have had in the human genome project; and if he will make a statement. [21650]

Mr. Ian Taylor

The Government fully recognise the value of the human genome project, HGP, and in the last three years—1994–95, 1995–96 and 1996–97—have allocated additional funding, now totalling £13 million a year, to this important area. They also recognise the need to share results of the work as widely as possible. The project will provide new insights into the treatment and prevention of many diseases and could lead to more accurate diagnosis. The Government will continue to support this work in conjunction with other international sponsors.

The genome project is a global initiative that has expanded considerably over the past few years. The Medical Research Council, MRC, which is funded by my Department through the science budget, continues to play a leading role in this work. The MRC human genome mapping project, HGMP, was initiated in 1989 to support work on genome mapping and for studies of the structural arrangements and sequence within the genome, to develop and evaluate enabling technologies and to support training. In addition to funding research grants and projects in MRC establishments, the council has set up the HGMP resource centre in Cambridge to provide centralised facilities and services to UK users. More recently, the MRC has collaborated with the Wellcome Trust to establish the Sanger centre, also in Cambridge. The centre is carrying out parallel and complementary programmes funded by the two partners, and serves as a "factory" to sequence the nematode and yeast genomes, as well as selected human chromosomes, and to develop robotics and informatics.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, BBSRC, also funded by my Department, currently supports an initiative in plant and animal genome analysis and in doing so liaises closely with the human genome mapping programme and the MRC's resource centre. Collaboration with the human genome resource centre has allowed important access to databases for use in comparative mapping, enabling animal mappers to acquire information about the position of candidate genes on the human genome. In future, these benefits may be reciprocal, allowing human geneticists access to information about the genetic bases for complex diseases, such as osteoporosis, for which there is a model in the chicken. There are also close links between BBSRC and MRC on the development of appropriate informatics to underpin genome research.

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