An international gathering of researchers shared anunprecedented amount of unpublished genome sequence dataat this week's Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference,according to J. Craig Venter, the former NIH researcher whoorganized the conference.

Venter told BioWorld that about 15,000 new human genesequences were released for the first time at the conference,which took place in Hilton Head, S.C. "That represents over10,000 new human genes," he said.

And that number doesn't include the sequences from genomesof other organisms -- including fruit flies, bacteria,mycobacteria, yeast and C. elegans -- which total up tohundreds of thousands of bases, Venter said. Some of thesesequences are only weeks old, he added.

About half of the new human gene sequences were producedby Japanese and French research groups. The rest are from theU.S. -- 5,000 of them generated by Venter's former lab at NIH.

Most participants came to the conference eager to share theirdata in an interactive, round-the-clock computing environment.

Scientists are putting all these sequences into a database, calledDBEST, that was created at the National Institutes of Healthabout six months ago. Venter said much of the data is availableonly at the conference. "They will be released to the public onlywhen the (research) papers come out," he said. The data willthen be available through DBEST.

Venter said DBEST now has more than 19,000 specific genesequences in it -- a far cry from the 347 bases that Venterpublished in the journal Science just 18 months ago.

"The pace of research is astronomical," he said. The sequencesare now being produced faster than the information can bedigested.

Ultimately, they will be compared to one another, species tospecies,.although sequence comparisons "are starting here atthe conference," adds Venter.

Venter left the NIH this summer to head the not-for-profitInstitute for Genomic Research in Germantown, Md.

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editort

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.