September 6, 2000 - Department of Energy Appropriations

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), representing over 42,000 scientists, is concerned about the inadequate resources for FY 2001 that the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee have allocated to the Department of Energy's Office of Science. The ASM urges Congress to fund the DOE Office of Science at the level of $3.1 billion requested by the Administration. This level of funding will strengthen the nation's research capabilities across all sectors of science.

The DOE Office of Science provides the primary source of support for the physical sciences and is an essential partner in areas of biological and environmental sciences, as well as mathematics, computing and engineering. The Office of Science complements the scientific programs of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and supports the use of synchrotron facilities by biomedical researchers. Synchrotrons, primarily supported by the DOE, have become essential for producing atomic-level resolution of macromolecular structures through X-ray crystallography, a primary tool of modern biology. In this regard, the ASM urges Congress to fund the upgrade of the Stanford synchrotron. Delays in access to synchrotron beamlines are becoming a major roadblock in biological research.

DOE's basic research programs contribute to our understanding of life and disease and play a key role in finding solutions to environmental and energy problems confronting the country and the world. The DOE Office of Science supports long-term, peer reviewed basic research in many areas of science in universities and colleges across the United States, contributing enormously to the knowledge base and training of the next generation of scientists. The DOE Office of Science has major accomplishments. The DOE initiated the human genome project and, subsequently, the microbial genome program which has supported the complete sequencing of 13 microbial genomes, including the first archael sequence establishing the modern three-branch view of life on earth. Because microbes make up over 60 percent of the earth's biomass and have existed in diverse environments for almost 4 billion years, the uses of information from microbial sequence studies have enormous implications for future scientific discovery and applications. Microbial research is leading to solutions to challenges in environmental cleanup of toxic wastes, the development of new pharmaceutical products, new forms of energy production, understanding and detecting biowarfare agents and gaining novel insights into the biological underpinnings of climate change and the role microbes play in the processing of carbon and nitrogen on earth. The DOE has also developed numerous technical advances that have made genome sequencing cheaper and faster.

The ASM encourages Congress to maintain its commitment to the Department of Energy research programs, which are so vital to continued scientific discovery and US scientific leadership. Thank you for your support of science.

Department of Energy Fact Sheet

The Department of Energy and the Human Genome Project Major Accomplishments

Making the Human Genome project possible

  • DOE's mission to understand the health risks posed by energy use and production led to the initial proposal in 1984 to sequence the human genome. In 1986, DOE was the first federal agency to fund a human genome program.
  • Computer experts at DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) developed GenBank, the principal DNA sequence database, that now resides at the National Library of Medicine.
  • LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers began the National Laboratory Gene Library Project, applying their expertise in chromosome sorting to clone DNAs from single human chromosomes, a critical early step in efforts to sequence the human genome.

DOE investments in basic research contribute to the Human Genome Project

  • DNA Sequencers -DOE research on capillary-based DNA sequencing contributed to the development in the private sector of the two most widely used DNA sequencing machines- the Perkin-Elmer 3700 and the MegaBace DNA Sequencer.
  • Fluorescent dyes - DOE research contributed to the development of fluorescent dyes, improving accuracy and safety of, while also helping to automate, DNA sequencing.
  • DNA cloning vectors - DOE funds helped to develop bacterial artificial chromosomes, or BACs. These BACs, or other microbe-based cloning vectors, typically are prepared before large DNA molecules can be sequenced.
  • BAC-end sequencing - DOE-funded research provided more than 450,000 BAC-based genetic markers that are being used to assemble the human DNA sequence.
  • GRAIL - GRAIL (Gene Recognition and Assembly Internet Link), a widely used computer program for identifying genes by analyzing DNA sequencing data, was developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory with DOE funds.
  • IMAGE - The IMAGE Consortium (Integrated Molecular Analysis of Genomes and their Expression) is a publicly available molecular resource that eventually will include copies of every gene within any genome being studied. Currently managed by the National Cancer Institute, this resource was begun with funding from DOE.

DOE sequencing successes

  • The DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI), formed in 1997, completed draft sequences of human chromosomes 5, 16, and 19 in April 2000.
  • The JGI currently has a DNA sequencing capacity of about 920 million bases of DNA sequence per year.
  • DOE-supported researchers have sequenced several genomes of microorganisms that can be used for bioremediation-that is, for cleaning up environmental contaminants.