NIH News Release
National Library of Medicine

Thursday, August 21, 1997
Bob Mehnert
(301) 496-6308

NIH’s Genbank Database Logs Billionth Base
Milestone Reflects Explosive Progress of DNA Research

(Bethesda, MD) - The National Library of Medicine, one of the National Institutes of Health, announced the achievement of a major milestone in molecular biology and the Human Genome Project: the addition of the one billionth base to the NIH’s GenBank DNA sequence database. This achievement reflects the explosive progress of molecular biology in understanding the genetic blueprint and paving the way for exciting breakthroughs for science and medicine in the 21st century.

Said Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., director of the National Library of Medicine: "The future time of fully understanding human genetics is fast approaching. This work is greatly speeded by such contributions from around the world—and by the study of genetic observations from plants, microorganisms, and animals. Congratulations to all who have shared these priceless genetic discoveries."

DNA is the molecular "book of life," containing all the instructions necessary to build a living organism, whether an AIDS virus, a rice plant or a human being. These instructions take the form of a long, twisted, ladder-like DNA molecule that forms one or more chromosomes. Four molecular subunits, called bases and represented by the letters A, T, G and C, are arranged in matched pairs that form the rungs of this molecular ladder. It is the sequence of these four letters along the length of the DNA molecule that determines all of our inherited biological characteristics.

The GenBank database now contains nearly 10 percent of the human genome, as well as gene sequences from more than 25,000 other species. GenBank is accessed by some 40,000 researchers every day at the Web site GenBank is built and supported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a division of the National Library of Medicine.

"As GenBank grows and becomes ever more comprehensive," said David J. Lipman, M.D., the Center’s director, "its value to the research community grows as well. And this deeper understanding of biology will lead to new opportunities in biotechnology and breakthroughs in health care."

NCBI is also responsible for two other biomedical information systems recently in the news: PubMed and the Cancer Genome Anatomy Project (CGAP). PubMed, which provides free Web-based access to the NLM’s MEDLINE database of medical literature, was demonstrated by Vice President Gore at a press conference June 26th. CGAP, a database of scientific information about cancer genes, was launched by the Vice President and the Director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Richard Klausner, at an August 1st press event.

More information about NCBI and GenBank is available through the Web site, via e-mail to, or by telephone at 301-496-2475.