BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission came up with two new initiatives to reinforce European activities in genome research.

Last Wednesday it launched a project to boost genome research related to human health, through what the Commission called "integrated projects," designed to stimulate progress in functional genomics by creating projects with critical mass, high impact and high visibility. Each project should comprise a minimum of 150 researcher-years, and include research, networking, and training and mobility, within an integrated management structure. The first call for expressions of interest will close on Feb. 9, and strategic topics will then be selected and more specific calls for proposals will be published in early summer 2001.

The Commission also will strengthen the support for research infrastructures, and spend over EUR100 million (US$85 million) in 2001 on research into the ethical implications and societal impact of genome information. According to the Commission, it is "important to create and maintain in Europe infrastructures to support genome research," such as databases and animal model resources. The Commission has transferred EUR25 million into infrastructures for 2001 in the field of genomics for human health, in particular for genomic and proteomic databases and for repositories of suitable animal models.

The Commission said, "Genome research is strategically important for Europe, as it is expected to unlock considerable economic, medical and social benefits. This has recently been highlighted by the availability of the draft of the human genome sequence. To realize these important goals, major efforts in the rapidly developing field of post-sequence genome research are needed."

The European Commission said its EUR300 million involvement in supporting genome research over the last decade - including achievements such as the yeast, bacillus subtilis and arabidopsis genomes - has triggered a shift in the strategy of many European laboratories, which had tended to work in isolation at the national level.