While large-scale genomic sequencing technologies over the past decade have given scientists databases filled with the complete genomes of hundreds of organisms, not enough is being done to interpret all that data by assigning functions to sequenced genes (annotation), according to a report released today by the American Academy of Microbiology. An Experimental Approach to Genome Annotation proposes a new initiative to help address this challenge.
"Roughly 40% of predicted genes have not been assigned even tentative functions. It is rare in science to be able to clearly delineate the boundaries of current knowledge, but that is exactly where genomics stands today," according to the report. "The annotation initiative proposed in this document will extend those boundaries and will likely lead to new applications and new progress in healthcare, biodefense, energy, the environment and agriculture."
Given the current lack of a reliable source of functional annotation data, the report recommends that a centralized genome annotation initiative be established in the United States. A key component of this initiative is the development of a centrally organized database of peer-reviewed, experimentally verified gene annotations, tied to catalogs of genes that have yet to be annotated and known biochemical functions for which a gene has yet to be found.
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