The project will involve the sequencing of the genomes of at least 1,000 people from around the world to create the most medically useful human genetics picture ever produced.
Major support for the effort will be provided by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Britain, China's Beijing Genomics Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
"The 1000 Genomes Project will examine the human genome at a level of detail no one has done before," said Wellcome's Richard Durbin, consortium co-chairman. "Such a project would have been unthinkable only two years ago. Today … it is now within our grasp."
Dr. David Altshuler of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University is the other co-chairman.
The project is designed to produce a catalog of variants present at 1 percent or greater frequency in the human population across most of the genome, and to 0.5 percent or lower within genes.