Press Release

International Network for the Sequencing of Anopheles gambiae Genome

Anopheles gambiae Genome Sequencing Project

March 5, 2001

Paris - An international network of Anopheles gambiae researchers and genome sequencing centers meeting at the Institut Pasteur has agreed to the general principles and method of operation for sequencing the genome of the mosquito most important for the spread of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and for making the information freely available through public databases, together with all ancillary genomic, genetic and biological information concerning the mosquito. The mosquito genome sequence will join those of the Plasmodium parasite and the human host to provide malaria researchers with the opportunity to identify new mechanisms for controlling the malaria disease cycle which requires the mosquito for transmission of the malaria parasite to its human host. This cycle results in three hundred million cases of malaria and approximately one and a half million deaths, primarily African children, each year.

This network includes the Institut Pasteur, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL, headquartered in Germany), the University of Notre Dame (U.S.A.), the French National Sequencing Center (Genoscope, France), Celera Genomics (U.S.A.), The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR, U.S.A.), the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB, Greece), the ONSA network (Sí£o Paolo, Brazil) and leading mosquito researchers from around the world, all under the auspices of the UNDP/WORLD BANK/WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (WHO/TDR, Geneva, Switzerland). The participating organizations have united around a program to sequence the entire A. gambiae genome with the first version to be completed in 2001. The network looks forward to expanding this collaborative approache to the genomic analysis of other Anopheles species that are important malaria vectors in other parts of the world.

The French government has guaranteed financial support for a portion of this international sequencing project and additional funding is being sought from other sources including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The proposed project will sequence the 260 million base pair Anopheles gambiae genome using the "Whole Genome Shotgun" technique perfected by Celera Genomics. The initial sequencing would be done by Celera Genomics and Genoscope, the French National Sequencing Center and assembled at Celera Genomics while sequence closure and finishing would be provided by Genoscope, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and others. Sequence annotation would be carried out by participating organizations including the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI, U.K.), the Institut Pasteur (France), The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR, U.S.A.), the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB, Greece), Celera Genomics (U.S.A) and the FlyBase consortium (U.S.A. and U.K.).

The genome sequencing effort will build on the initial genomic research done at the University of Notre Dame (U.S.A.), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Germany) and the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (IMBB, Greece) supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,National Institutes of Health (U.S.A.), the MacArthur Foundation (U.S.A.) and the WHO/TDR and by Genoscope and the Institut Pasteur (France) supported by the French government. The participation of additional agencies, laboratories and sequencing centers to contribute to genome finishing and annotation will be sought. All interested public and private sector parties active in the field of Anopheles genomics, are welcome to participate, subject to technical feasibility and quality assurances. The European Union proposed program for action on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in the context of poverty reduction (2002-2006) may also provide support.

Malaria with 300 million clinical cases and 1.5 million deaths per year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, is a serious medical, economic and social problem. Rather than decreasing, the incidence of malaria is mounting due to increased insecticide resistance in mosquitoes and drug resistance in the parasites. Malaria only spreads when the parasite is passed from an infected person to an uninfected person by the bite of an Anopheles mosquito. Control of human exposure to the insect vector has been and continues to be the surest way to control malaria. In sub-Saharan Africa, Anopheles gambiae is the major mosquito vector and Plasmodium falciparum is the principal malaria parasite. The hope of eliminating malaria through the application of insecticides to destroy the mosquito vector has receded as the mosquito population has become more and more resistant to these chemical agents. New methods of controlling the disease vector are needed and the Anopheles gambiae genome project is the fastest way to obtain the basic information which when combined with field research can lead to control of malaria transmission.