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Press release

ENCODE Consortium (Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements) meets in Barcelona for the first time outside the United States

19.07.2010

Taking advantage of the fact that the best geneticists and bioinformaticians in the world are visiting Barcelona, the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and the International Center for Scientific Debate (ICSD) –driven by Biocat and “la Caixa” Welfare Projects– will hold a public symposium to present the latest results of the project and pose the challenges for the future of the ENCODE project.

“Ten years after the human genome sequence, the ENCODE project seeks to understand this sequence” explains Roderic Guigó, researcher at the CRG and member of the ENCODE consortium. “We are on the right path, we have gone from studying fragments to daring to look at the genome as a whole,” he explains.

Roderic Guigó, researcher at the CRG; Manel Balcells, president of the Biocat Executive Committee; Ignasi López, deputy director of Science, Research and the Environment at the “la Caixa” Foundation; Ewan Birney researcher at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI); Miguel Beato, director of the CRG; and Miquel Martí, director of the ICSD; presented the first meeting of the ENCODE consortium in Barcelona today.

The CRG and the ICSD welcomed the top representatives of the ENCODE consortium for their first meeting outside the United States Centre. ENCODE is one of the National Human Genome Research Institute’s most important projects, which aims to identify the functional elements of the human genome sequence and has just celebrated its tenth anniversary.

The internal consortium meeting will be held on 19 and 20 July in Barcelona and, taking advantage of their stay in the city, on Tuesday 20 July, the top members of ENCODE will give a public symposium entitled The ENCODE project, ten years after the human genome sequence. Organizing these symposiums positions the CRG and Catalonia as international benchmarks in biomedicine. These meetings are also part of the new International Center for Scientific Debate calendar of events, which is driven by Biocat in collaboration with Obra Social de “la Caixa”.

ENCODE

The ENCODE (Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements) project is funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in the United States and aims to identify functional elements in the genome sequence. The project has two components, a pilot phase and a technology development phase.

The pilot phase of the ENCODE project tested and compared existing methods to rigorously analyze a defined portion of the human genome sequence. The conclusions from this pilot project were published June 2007 in Nature (Birney, Stamatoyannopoulos, Dutta, Guigó et al., Nature 447:799-816, 2007) and in Genome Research. The findings showed that it was possible to successfully identify and characterize functional elements in the human genome. Due to the success of the pilot phase of the ENCODE project, the NHGRI funded new projects at the end of 2007 to scale this project to analyze the entire human genome and not just the portion they had initially focused on.

The ENCODE consortium is made up of researchers from different areas with experience in data production and analysis. The CRG Bioinformatics and Genomics laboratory, led by Roderic Guigó,is the only research group in Spain to participate in the ENCODE project. In the pilot phase, Dr. Guigó was in charge of delineating the reference annotation for the portion of the genome analyzed. In the current phase, Guigó participates, with a one-million-dollar grant for his laboratory, in two work groups: the project led by Tom Gingeras (Cold Spring Harbor), to characterize the human transcriptome in cell linesselected by ENCODE, and the project led by Tim Hubbard (Sanger Institute), which aims to scale the reference annotation obtained in the pilot phase to the entire genome. Likewise, Roderic Guigó coordinates the activities of the RNA task group and, although he is not lead researcher on any project, as a coordinator he is part of the group of top researchers at ENCODE.

ENCODE Meeting in Barcelona

This is the first time the ENCODE consortium meeting has been held outside the United States. The previous meetings were held at the University of California, Santa Cruz and in Bethesda (Maryland). More than 60 international bioinformatics specialists are participating in this meeting. These experts carry out the computational analysis of the experimental data collected through the human genome sequencing project. The work groups are using this meeting to share, analyze and integrate data obtained; evaluate the results; and design new strategies for the project.

The events in Barcelona are being held on 19 and 20 July, at the Center for Genomic Regulation in the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park.

Public symposium The ENCODE project, ten years after the human genome sequence

This is a unique opportunity for Barcelona to bring together the top researchers from the ENCODE project in one symposium. Therefore, the CRG and the ICSD have organized a public symposium allowing speakers to present the latest results of the project and pose challenges for the future of the ENCODE project. Key researchers in the ENCODE project will share their most recent research related to decoded information from the genome seen from different viewpoints. For example, they will speak about the importance of epigenetics to understanding the genome. They will also analyze the role of RNA, chromatin and transcription factors.Topics related to computer data analysis will also be discussed and the event will close with a special session on the future of genomics.

The guest speakers in the symposium are:

  • Ewan Birney, European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI)
  • Tim Hubbard, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
  • Richard M. Myers, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
  • Zhiping Weng, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington
  • Laura Elnitski, National Human Genome Research Institute
  • Scott A, Tenenbaum, State University of New York
  • Tom Gingeras, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Ross Hardisson, Penn State University
  • Elliott H. Margulies, National Human Genome Research Institute
  • Morgan Giddings, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Jim Kent, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Elise Feingold, National Human Genome Research Institute
  • Peter Good, National Human Genome Research Institute

The CRG is an innovative research center devoted to promoting basic research on fundamental aspects of life sciences, specifically in the fields of genomics and proteomics, and aims to attract and produce top-notch scientists. The CRG is a dynamic and compact center; it is well established and has cutting-edge technology and first-rate scientists from around the world who enthusiastically seek to push the current limits of science.

Biocat is the organization that coordinates, dynamizes and promotes biotechnology and biomedicine in Catalonia. It is fostered by the Government of Catalonia and the Barcelona City Council and includes benchmark companies and organizations from the sector. With its International Center for Scientific Debate, in collaboration with Obra Social “la Caixa”, Biocat promotes multidisciplinary reflection and dialogue between prestigious international experts and the Catalan scientific community.

For more information and to schedule interviews:
Center for Genomic Regulation Press Office
Laia Cendrós • Phone +34 93 316 02 37 • M. +34 607 611 798 • laia.cendros@crg.cat

Other contacts:
Biocat Press Office: F&A • Phone +34 93 419 19 86 • slazaro@filloy.com
Adela Farré (Biocat) • Phone +34 93 310 33 69 • M. +34 626 992 057 • afarre@biocat.cat
Silvia Labé (Biocat) • Phone +34 93 310 33 69 • M. +34 662 315 400 • slabe@biocat.cat

“la Caixa” Welfare Projects Communication Department:
Marina Teixido • Phone +34 93 404 40 92 • M. +34 608 09 90 23 • mteixido@fundaciolacaixa.es

INTERVIEWS. The following researchers will be available for interviews:

  • Roderic Guigó, Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG)
  • Ewan Birney, European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI)
  • Tom Gingeras, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Jim Kent, University of California Santa Cruz
  • Richard M. Myers, Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology

You can also contact us to schedule interviews with any of the researchers attending the symposium or members of the ENCODE symposium that are visiting Barcelona.