6
Looking Forward

Caird Rexroad of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service commented, “It’s well recognized within USDA, maybe because of what’s been done in the plant sciences with the plant genomics initiative, that it is a very good time to be going forward with this (domestic animal genome projects).” Still, there are no guarantees of success, and workshop participants offered a variety of advice for how researchers could improve the odds that domestic animal genome programs would grow. “What is it,” asked Richard Gibbs of the Baylor College of Medicine, “that makes for a genome to get all the way through these hoops and hurdles to get to the point where it is going to be sequenced? So far the real issue has been advocacy. By advocacy I mean someone who is really pushing for it and is working with everybody else who is interested in the organism.”

A STRATEGY FOR AN ANIMAL GENOME INITIATIVE

Ronald Phillips of the University of Minnesota offered seven factors that he believed were instrumental in getting support for the Plant Genome Initiative—a program that was developed in part from discussions among officials from the USDA, NSF, and the National Academy of Sciences in 1997 (see Box 6-1).

The first point that Phillips presented was posed as a question, “Has the science and technology matured to a point where you really could make a good argument [to policymakers]? I think that’s certainly the case with all of the work reported here today.” While he noted the impressive advances in animal genomics, he also acknowledged that there was much left to do. The challenges



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Exploring Horizons for Domestic Animal Genomics: Workshop Summary 6 Looking Forward Caird Rexroad of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service commented, “It’s well recognized within USDA, maybe because of what’s been done in the plant sciences with the plant genomics initiative, that it is a very good time to be going forward with this (domestic animal genome projects).” Still, there are no guarantees of success, and workshop participants offered a variety of advice for how researchers could improve the odds that domestic animal genome programs would grow. “What is it,” asked Richard Gibbs of the Baylor College of Medicine, “that makes for a genome to get all the way through these hoops and hurdles to get to the point where it is going to be sequenced? So far the real issue has been advocacy. By advocacy I mean someone who is really pushing for it and is working with everybody else who is interested in the organism.” A STRATEGY FOR AN ANIMAL GENOME INITIATIVE Ronald Phillips of the University of Minnesota offered seven factors that he believed were instrumental in getting support for the Plant Genome Initiative—a program that was developed in part from discussions among officials from the USDA, NSF, and the National Academy of Sciences in 1997 (see Box 6-1). The first point that Phillips presented was posed as a question, “Has the science and technology matured to a point where you really could make a good argument [to policymakers]? I think that’s certainly the case with all of the work reported here today.” While he noted the impressive advances in animal genomics, he also acknowledged that there was much left to do. The challenges

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Exploring Horizons for Domestic Animal Genomics: Workshop Summary of functional genomics and proteomics are just beginning to emerge. Phillips questioned whether some of the current techniques that are in use, such as knockouts in mice, are adequate for the challenges ahead. “Are they adequate Box 6-1 Factors That Contributed to the Establishment of the Plant Genome Initiative Science and technology that had matured enough to deserve serious consideration An interagency approach A scientific foundation Support of stakeholders Support of Congress Key agency leadership Input from a broad range of scientific experts from throughout the world Source: Ronald Phillips, University of Minnesota. for what researchers are trying to do, or should they devise a system of knockouts in a species that is important, in terms of your future lists of candidate species for sequencing?” “My second point that I thought was important for success of plant genome initiative was the interagency approach.” By bringing together various federal agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE), USDA and National Institutes of Health (NIH), identifying their common interests within animal and microbial genomics, and preparing an interagency agenda for a research initiative, Phillips suggested, discussion in the U.S. Congress will be stimulated. Given the diversity of interests and the resources involved for genomic research, politics are an inevitable component of the development of an initiative. Phillips noted that the researchers and advocates should focus their efforts on what they know and do best—the science. “The third point was it should be science-based. Make your arguments based on science and let that carry the day.” “The fourth point was commodity support. The corn growers brought this to the fore. They went to Congress and Congress asked them, where do you place this in your order of priorities? And they said, number one. After that was said, that was the end of the argument in many ways. It was a matter of how do you get it done. They were convinced when the commodity groups, particularly corn growers, said that was important to them.”

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Exploring Horizons for Domestic Animal Genomics: Workshop Summary “The fifth important thing was having key congressional support. If you have good goals and can get someone to articulate that, that’s helpful.” Phillips also said that it would be key to show Congress that the work planned under the initiative was not being duplicated elsewhere, for example, in the private sector. “Sixth is having key agency leadership, and I assume that will happen with the interagency working group (representatives of the USDA, DOE, and NIH have formed a working group that is focusing on animal genomics research program). The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) was extremely important in our case. We had people who understood and really worked on our behalf both here and abroad.” “Finally, one of the important aspects was that we had discussions with respected science sounding boards. The first thing we did was to have this kind of meeting at the National Academy of Sciences. That was followed up with a colloquium of a broader set of scientists held at National Academies facilities in Irvine, California. We discussed it at a Gordon Conference (Gordon Research Conferences provide an international forum for the presentation and discussion of frontier research in the sciences), and particularly brought in the international dimension there. We had discussions with the panel that was reviewing the Arabidopsis situation. And they told us it could be speeded up by several years with more funding. So, that became one of our priorities. I think Congress respected the fact that we had talked to the best scientists in the world to design this program. Finally, be sure you keep the international community involved, not just in terms of some interactions, but, actually helping you work through your goals.” By adopting a similar set of approaches, Phillips said, genome researchers interested in domestic animals could improve their chances of establishing and developing their own genome programs.