For the past decade, when a research community wanted to sequence the genome of their favorite species, they submitted a white paper to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Despite its name, the NHGRI funds genome sequencing projects of not only non-human mammals, but also non-mammalian animals and even non-animals (see here for a list). If a bunch of researchers want their species’ genome sequenced, they would get together and explain why the genome should be sequenced. These should not be confused with typical research grant proposals that a principal investigator will submit to fund a research project.
I’ve been hearing rumors that the NHGRI is no longer accepting white papers for genome projects (I can’t find anything on this at the NHGRI webpage). They will be shifting their focus toward other projects, including large scale polymorphism studies. Instead of white papers, grant proposals (submitted to NIH, I presume) will be required to fund whole genome sequencing projects. With the rapid decreases in the costs of whole genome sequencing, this won’t be quite as absurd as it would have been a decade ago. A single proposal requesting a billion dollars to sequence a mammalian genome would be downright silly, but it’s getting pretty darn close to affordable to propose a complete genome sequencing project with a single NIH grant.
Before I get into fun speculation, is there any truth to the rumor that the NHGRI won’t be accepting genome white papers? If so, I’ve got some ideas on the (near) future of genome sequencing.