There is to be a major acceleration in the Human Genome Project (HGP) to complete the foundations of this ambitious plan early in 2000, the Wellcome Trust in the UK has announced. The international effort will produce a "working draft" sequence of the human genome ahead of schedule. It will be conducted by the Wellcome Trust-funded Sanger Centre in the UK, American laboratories funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the US Department of Energy, and centres in France and Germany. As part of the international consortium undertaking the sequencing phase of the HGP, a UK/USA collaboration will make publicly available to the international scientific community the first "working draft" of the human genome by February 2000 - considerably earlier than expected. This will pave the way towards completion of the final, high-quality human genome sequence, which is expected to be completed through the combined efforts of groups all over the world by 2003 at the latest. The "working draft" will provide invaluable information for biomedical researchers and will act as the foundations on which the finished genome will be built. Putting the finishing touches to the draft - correcting errors and filling in gaps - is a painstaking and critical process. Commenting on this significant change of schedule, Dr Michael Morgan, Chief Executive of the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, said: "We announced back in September last year that a "working draft" would be available in 2001. However, the pooling of expertise and the increase in resources between British and American genome centres have proved that a "working draft" can be available much earlier. This is great news for the global scientific community and illustrates the success of the publicly funded programmes. It ensures that human sequence data remains in the public domain for the development of future healthcare". To fulfil this objective, the Wellcome Trust has adjusted Sanger Centre funding so that a total of £48 million will be released over the next 12 months to aid its effort to sequence one-third of the "working draft". This will ensure that the Sanger Centre team can take on additional staff and purchase the necessary equipment to meet this internationally agreed goal. The NHGRI is awarding over US $80 million to three world-leading genome centres in the US to enable the American team to fulfil its role. Dr John Sulston, director of the Sanger Centre, said: "It's wonderful to know that a first draft of the human genome sequence will be freely available by February 2000, and my colleagues and I at the Sanger Centre will be contributing our third early next year. The scientific community want this data immediately and we aim to give it to them, as it plays a vital role in understanding the very basis of life, health and disease".