France: Human epigenome consortium takes first steps
Paris – A global effort set to map epigenetic profiles of all 250 human cell types has been kickstarted by international researchers. Top biologists gathered in Paris at the end of January to launch the International Human Epigenome Consortium (IHEC), which will seek to map 1,000 reference epigenomes as part of its initial development activities. Epigenomes represent the pattern of chemical modifications to DNA and histone proteins in a cell that determine gene expression. Similar to the Human Genome Organisation or the International Cancer Genomics Consortiums (ICGC), the project is recruiting members among national funding agencies and other organisations to raise EUR95m in its first phase. Executive committee members must chip in at least EUR7.4m over five years, and participants must agree to make their data freely available.
1000 reference profiles of healthy human cell types
Faced with a rapidly-growing number of publications in the complex field of epigenomics, participants at the Paris meeting underlined the need for high-quality reference data. “We urgently need standardised data to be able to interpret the results of our experiments,” said German researcher Jörn Walter, who took part in the meeting. Researchers agreed to focus on epigenome mapping of healthy human cell types. Funding agency representatives from the US, Canada, France and Germany expressed interest in joining the IHEC. The steering commitee now plans to publish a final policy document by June, when it will have nominated both executive and scientific boards. The consortium will then decide on each nation’s contribution.