UAlbany Researchers Analyze Human Regulatory Code

Scott Tenenbaum, an assistant professor with the University at Albany's Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics received a $410,000 grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how and why genes are regulated in human cells. The award is part of $5.5 million in funding for the Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project, a research initiative launched by the NHGRI in September 2003 to identify all functional elements in the human genome sequence.

Tenenbaum will develop genomic scale technology using RNA-binding proteins to identify regulatory elements in RNA, an extension of earlier technology he helped pioneer called “Ribonomics” in which a cell’s own machinery is exploited to identify how genes are regulated in the cell and for what purpose. His current research takes advantage of some of the most advanced genomic based technology in the world and, along with the other ENCODE consortium members, the Tenenbaum lab is trying to unravel the ultimate genetic code; the human regulatory code.

“These grants are aimed at broadening the types of functional elements that we are studying under ENCODE and also expanding the portfolio of technologies that we can apply to them,” said Peter Good, Ph.D., NHGRI's program director for genome informatics.

“Dr. Tennenbaum's high-throughput technology takes a whole new approach to identifying key parts of the human genome critical for biological function,” said Dr. Paulette McCormick, Director of the Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Research. “His work in the ENCODE project is likely to open new doors in our understanding of how cells function and get us to the crux of what causes diseases and disorders, which is the primary mission of the Gen*NY*Sis Cancer Center.”

The ENCODE project is being implemented in three phases: a pilot phase, a technology development phase and a production phase. In the pilot phase, which is expected to last three years, ENCODE researchers are devising and testing ways of efficiently applying known approaches to identify functional elements. Simultaneously, in the second phase of the ENCODE Project, the technology development component, other research groups are striving to develop new technologies designed to widen the array of novel methods and technologies available to be applied to the ENCODE project. Guided by the results of the first two phases, NHGRI will decide how to initiate the production phase and expand the ENCODE project to analyze the human genome.

The ENCODE consortium comprises several research teams in the United States, as well as groups in Canada, Singapore, Spain and the United Kingdom. The collaborative effort is open to all interested researchers in academia, government and industry who agree to abide by the consortium's guidelines.

For more detailed information on the ENCODE project, including a complete list of participants and the consortium's data release and accessibility policies, go to: ENCODE data that can be directly linked to genomic sequence will be made available at the University of California, Santa Cruz ENCODE Genome Browser and the ENSEMBL Browser.

The Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics is committed to research that will discover the genetic origins of cancer and lead to finding a cure for the disease. Located on the University at Albany's East Campus in Rensselaer, the new Center will combine UAlbany research expertise in genomics and biomedical sciences with state-of-the-art technology in a new 113,000 sq. ft. building. The $45 million center was made possible by a $22.5 million grant from New York State's Gen*NY*Sis Program.