The publication of the first draft of the human genome sequence has been clouded by the ongoing dispute over data access. The disagreements between the public consortium and biotech firm Celera Genomics led to the publication of two different versions of the genome in rival journals, Science and Nature, last week.
The Human Genome Project (HGP) public consortium has made its data available to researchers on a daily basis via the Internet. Former head of the UK's genome sequencing effort, Professor John Sulston, said last week that Celera could not have produced its version without access to the HGP's results. But two years ago, the US government was urged to withdraw its funding for the public project, on the basis that Celera would complete the sequence first. 'It was a near thing. It very nearly became privatised' said Sulston.
Craig Venter, head of Celera, rejects claims that his version of the genome was completed using the HGP's results, saying that three to five per cent of the public map was 'completely misassembled'. Access to Celera's data is free to academic researchers, but they will only be allowed to download up to one million base pairs of DNA sequence per week. Commercial users will have to pay to use the company's human genome database. Some scientists have criticised Science's decision to publish Celera's results, as researchers are normally required make all DNA sequence data freely available upon publication.
Sulston says the Science deal caused the HGP to publish its results separately in Nature, rather than jointly with Celera.