The Human Genome Project

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was a 13-year international scientific research project  coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The primary goal was determining the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up DNA, and identifying and mapping the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes of the human genome from both a physical and functional standpoint.

The project began in October 1990; a complete draft of the genome was announced in April 2003, two years earlier than planned. The U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) house the gene sequence in a database known as GenBank, along with sequences of known and hypothetical genes and proteins.

Specialised computer programs are necessary to analyze the data, because the data itself is difficult to interpret without such programs. Among the organizations creating powerful tools for storing, visualizing and searching Genome data are the Genome Bioinformatics Group at the University of California , Santa Cruz (UCSC), the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI = part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory EMBL) and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI).

The EBI and WTSI launched in 1999 a joint scientific project called Ensembl, which aim is to provide a centralized resource for geneticists, molecular biologists and other researchers studying the genomes of human species and other vertebrates and model organis  ms.

Ensembl Genomes release 13 was launched on March 8, 2012, bringing the total genomes supported to 341.

The process of identifying the boundaries between genes and other features in a raw DNA sequence is called genome annotation. It consists of two steps:
1. identifying elements on the genome, a process called gene prediction
2. attaching biological information to these elements

The value of a genome is only as good as its annotation. To create a gold standard reference annotation, the Human and Vertebrate Analysis and Annotation (HAVANA) team of the WTSI uses tools developed in-house to manually annotate human, mouse and zebrafish genomes. Based on these data a central repository for high quality manual annotation of vertebrate finished genome sequence, called The Vertebrate Genome Annotation (VEGA) database, has been created.

The EBI hosts the The Protein and Nucleotide Database Group (PANDA) providing all its sequence resources and The HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC), the only worldwide authority that assigns standardised nomenclature to human genes. HGNC has assigned unique gene symbols and names to over 33,000 human loci, of which around 19,000 are protein coding. The HGNC website is a curated online repository of approved gene nomenclature and associated resources.

In September 2003, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) launched a public research consortium named ENCODE, the Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements, to carry out a project to identify all functional elements in the human genome sequence. Both UCSC and WTSI are participating in the ENCODE project.

The WTSI set up a sub-project of the ENCODE project; called GENCODE (Encyclopædia of genes and gene variants) to annotate all evidence-based gene features in the entire human genome at a high accuracy. The Gencode gene sets are used by the entire ENCODE consortium and by many other projects as reference gene sets :