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Friday, October 10, 1997, 12:00 p.m. EDT
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences introduces its "Environmental Genome" Project-a study of how 200 or so genes for chemical susceptibility vary in the U.S. population-at a scientific symposium Oct. 17 and 18 in the Masur Auditorium of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, Md. The sessions, which have attracted international interest, will set forth plans for the multi-center project and get the views of some of the most knowledgeable scientists in the field. Attendees will include scientists from Canada and Europe as well as other institutes of the National Institutes of Health and from universities and other scientific centers that may want to participate in the big project.
After a welcome from NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden, an introductory discussion will provide examples of disease risks that correspond to variances in particular genes and of how genes and the environment interact to cause disease.
The second discussion of the morning will be on population sampling: How best to select a thousand or more people to be representative of the general population.
After lunch, new DNA technologies will be discussed. These technologies will permit DNA sequencing for such a large number of people to be carried out at reasonable cost. The cost of studying 200 or so genes has been variously estimated at $50-60 million over a half-dozen years.
Saturday's morning sessions will cover the functional analysis of polymorphisms-gene variations-and the ethical, legal and social implications of the project and its potential outcomes.
Scientists hope to discover how variances in genes make people more susceptible to, or more resistant to, substances they may encounter at work, at home or more generally in the environment. The data should have great value in preventing illness and disability.
Potentially, too, this information will mean more precise information for regulators such as the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency who now arbitrarily large safety margins to cover what is not known about the variations in human susceptibility. "More precise information would permit the best protection at the least cost," NIEHS Director Olden has said.
Media representatives wanting to attend all sessions and the reception are asked to pre-register and pay $50. Other media reporters dropping in to various sessions of interest may register free. Background on the Environmental Genome Project is available to the press at 919/541-3345. For full registration, call Gerri Wolfle at 919/541-3267 or Fred Tyson at 919/541-0176.
SPEAKERS AND DISCUSSANTS INCLUDE: CO-CHAIRS Leland H. Hartwell, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle; NIEHS Scientific Director J. Carl Barrett, and Jack A. Taylor, NIEHS.
Patrick O. Brown of Stanford University; Kenneth H. Buetow, Fox Chase Cancer Center; Frances S. Collins, National Human Genome Research Institute; David R. Cox, Stanford University; David C. Christiani of the Harvard School of Medicine; Maureen T. Crotin of Affymetrix Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.; Ron W. Davis of Stanford University; Georgia M. Dunston of Howard University; Glen A. Evans of UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; Joseph F. Fraumeni, National Cancer Institute; Fred G. Guengerich of Vanderbilt University, Nashville; Dean H. Hamer of NCI; Susan E. Hankinson of Channing Laboratory, Boston; David R. Hunter of the Harvard School of Public Health; Charles H. Langley of University of California at Davis; Edison T. Liu of NCI; Stephanie J. London of NIEHS; Deborah A. Nickerson, University of Washington, Seattle; Peter Oefner of Stanford University; John D. Potter of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Duncan C. Thomas of the University of Southern California; David G. Wan of the Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, Mass.; Kenneth M. Weiss, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., and Samuel H. Wison, NIEHS.
About the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS): NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of the National Institutes of Health. For more information on NIEHS or environmental health topics, visit www.niehs.nih.gov or subscribe to a news list.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
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