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Human Genome News Archive Edition

Human Genome News, January 1991; 2(5)

DOE Centers Facilitate Technology Transfer

As the Human Genome Project is implemented, an unprecedented flow of new resources and technologies will be released, many with wide-ranging applications to clinical medicine or to improvements in economically important animals, plants, and microorganisms. Because of the vast potential for commercial development of these technologies, the U.S. Congress views the Human Genome Project as an opportunity to strengthen the nation's ability to compete with other countries industrially and economically.

Benefits Economy

By creating new products, markets, and jobs, rapid deployment of technology from the research laboratory to the marketplace can play an important role in vitalizing the U.S. economy. Application of genome technology to clinical medicine has already begun, with several biotechnology companies predicting an annual $200-million market in genetic tests and personal identification. The pharmaceutical industry is using the new genetic information to improve drug design [see HGN 2(4): 10-11 (November 1990)]. In addition to the impact on medical technologies for humans, investigators and businessmen are anticipating a billion-dollar business in genetically altered animals and plants.

Furthers Human Genome Project Goals

Progress of the genome effort depends on technology development to enable researchers to map and sequence DNA more efficiently and economically. Collaboration between human genome laboratories and the private sector can engender a more focused approach to the technology challenge and allow the project to expand its capital and expertise base.

Transfer Activities at DOE Centers

One mission of the DOE Human Genome Centers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is to facilitate the transfer of new genome technologies and resources to industry and small businesses for broader application by the commercial sector. To accomplish this mission, all three laboratories are exploring ways to increase cooperation with the private sector.

A number of projects involving interaction between the centers and the private sector are now under way, and additional interactions (not listed) are in the preliminary stages. In some instances, private industries are marketing technologies developed at research laboratories and are providing research funds or other resources; other collaborative programs involve joint development of technologies and their applications to achieve project goals.

Resource Development, Marketing

  • LLNL pioneered chromosome painting using hybridization probes derived from their Charon 21A flow-sorted libraries and repackaged the flow-sorted libraries into a Bluescript vector for ease of amplification and for use in chromosome painting. Amoco, Inc., will market the amplified libraries and provide funding for further painting technology development.
  • LANL pioneered chromosome-specific repetitive sequence hybridization probes for detecting individual human chromosomes.
  • Life Technologies, Inc., developed new bacterial host strains that give greater stability to several new cosmid cloning vectors produced by LLNL. Life Technologies is interested in marketing the LLNL vectors.
  • Dynal Corporation and LBL are evaluating the use of monodisperse beads in isolating mRNA, chromosomes, and restriction fragments. They are also exploring the use of beads to amplify hybridization signals and extend DNA molecules.
  • Multichromophore fluorescent probes using DNA intercalation complexes, originated at LBL, are licensed to Molecular Probes, Inc., and will be used to develop new types of fluorescent probes and stains for DNA detection.
  • LANL is negotiating with a major biotechnology company the joint development of a technology for sequencing DNA using fluorescent base-specific tags. The tagged DNA fragments will be detected and identified by laser-induced fluorescence.

Hardware Development, Marketing

  • LLNL and Autogen, Inc., have been working to extend Autogen's automated plasmid DNA extractor capabilities to include cosmid DNA extraction. LLNL is a test site for this apparatus and will continue to evaluate the system.
  • Applied Biosystems, Inc., (ABI) and LLNL developed a fluorescence-based chemistry to automate clone fingerprinting for physical map construction, using a polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis system and software for automated data collection and analysis. ABI is marketing the chemistries and software. To eliminate the use of radioisotopes, ABI and LLNL are developing automated restriction-fragment analysis on a horizontal agarose system using fluorescence tags on DNA, a methodology that can also be applied to Southern blotting procedures.
  • LLNL, LANL, and Beckman Instruments, Inc., are redesigning and testing the high-density replica plater attachment for the Biomek Workstation. This device, as presently configured, automatically creates high-density arrays of plasmids, lambda, cosmids, or YACs on agarose or filters.
  • Bio-Rad Corporation and LANL are developing and applying Bio-Rad's pulsed-field gel electrophoresis technology to enhance resolution of multimegabase DNA fragments.
  • LBL and Hewlett-Packard (HP) are devising advanced applications for HP robotic systems. HP is providing technical assistance and lending some advanced robotic hardware.
  • LBL is working to generate DNA templates for the ABI automated DNA sequencer. LBL is also devising methods to obtain sequence tagged sites from YAC clones, using Alu-vector, inverse, and anchored PCR to obtain YAC end-specific templates.
  • LBL and Cruachem, Inc., are collaborating on an advanced low-cost, high-volume, 20-channel DNA synthesizer and on control software design and implementation. LBL will evaluate instrument prototypes.
  • A laser-excited confocal fluorescence gel scanner, designed at LBL, is being licensed by Molecular Dynamics and will be developed into a commercial gel scanner for reading DNA sequencing and fingerprinting gels.

Software Development, Marketing

  • IBM and LANL have jointly tested computer-developed programs for efficiently calculating the probability of clone overlap, based upon fingerprint characteristics that the clones have in common. Management of heterogeneous networks and databases of interest to the genome program are also being investigated.
  • LLNL and Amoco, Inc., are collaborating on an image-analysis system for semi-automated chromosome karyotyping and on user-friendly application programs for karyotype analysis. They plan to transfer the application to clinical and research laboratories. With Delft University (the Netherlands), hardware and software were produced for a Macintosh-based karyotyping system.
  • LANL has negotiated with Sybase and Servio Corporation to make available to Human Genome Project investigators their respective products, namely, relational and object-oriented database management systems, at greatly reduced costs. Hands-on use of these products will show the originators where modifications need to be made.
  • ABI is marketing the Contig Browser, a prototype version of software developed at LLNL for analysis of overlapping clones (contigs) and graphical display of those contigs.
  • LBL and DiaQuest, Inc., developed data-capture software for images from video screens, in conjunction with a single DNA molecule imaging system. The software will be marketed by DiaQuest.
  • Oracle Corporation and LANL are investigating the applicability of object-oriented database methods to human genome data. A formal collaboration is under consideration.
  • LBL and Photometrics, Inc., developed a number of image-analysis programs (based on the X-window system) that have been transferred to Photometrics for its high-resolution charged-coupled display development work.

Industry representatives are invited to attend the February DOE Human Genome Program Contractor-Grantee Workshop to learn more about DOE-funded genome projects.

For information, contact:

  • Sylvia Spengler
    415/643-7799

The Ultimate Technology Transfer

Perhaps the ultimate technology transfer occurs when one large project creates tools and technologies useful for the initiation of other related projects, whose research in turn produces data that benefits the originating project.

Plant Improvement

The Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching its own research effort to study selected traits of key food and forest crops, using methods developed in the Human Genome Project. The agricultural plant genome project will not focus on mapping an entire genome but will search instead for genes that control economically important traits such as yield, nutritional content, and resistance to disease, insects, and drought.

Animal Breeding

Recognizing that gene mapping can contribute toward improving livestock, animal scientists are now making a concerted effort to launch their own genome projects; their efforts will concentrate on mapping genes that control traits such as fat deposition, increased disease resistance, and litter size. Animal researchers are convinced that human chromosome mapping efforts can help direct their own search for genes, since considerable homology has been found to occur between the genomes.

Future Benefits

As technology transfer comes full circle, human genome mapping efforts will reap benefits from the implementation of these plant and animal projects as they reveal information fundamental to the search for specific human genes.


Steps in the Technology Transfer Process

Finding Opportunities
Because industry also benefits from opportunities to develop the technologies and resources that will eventually be required for genome project work, these interactions can be viewed as two-way technology transfers. National laboratory human genome centers provide a variety of opportunities for the private sector to collaborate on joint projects or to obtain direct access to technology.

Private-sector involvement in research and development can determine how successfully the technology transfers to the marketplace, and collaborative efforts can speed development of essential tools for genome research. Effective publication of opportunities for collaboration is, therefore, particularly important. Opportunities for cooperative work or licensing are communicated in several ways:

  • Announcements in Commerce Business Daily (a government publication used by many private businesses) and in various technology transfer journals.
  • Center-sponsored workshops and seminars, announced mainly in scientific journals, to facilitate interaction with the scientific community, including industry researchers. Over 50 industry representatives attended the 1988 Human Genome Workshop, sponsored by the LANL Technology Transfer Office, to learn about opportunities arising from genome work. Communication among academic and national laboratory researchers fosters continuing dialogues and collaboration.
  • Human Genome Project research reports presented at conferences and in scientific and technical publications.

STEP 1. CONTACT: To receive general information about laboratories and specific data about ongoing programs and their current output, persons interested in technology transfer should first contact the technology transfer offices of the DOE human genome centers:

  • LANL: Ronald Barks, 505/667-3839
  • LLNL: Peter Matlock, 415/422-6416
  • LBL: Pepi Ross, 415/486-6462

The company will be asked to send general information to the center, possibly including an annual report. Technology transfer offices may initiate discussions between a company and appropriate scientists or engineers after receipt of this information.

STEP 2. MEETING: Interested companies may be invited to the centers to view facilities and to continue discussions; laboratory and company representatives then work together to develop collaborative programs. If there is a large response from the private sector to a particular project, a workshop may be held to discuss opportunities for collaborations or licenses.

STEP 3. PROPOSAL: After a proposal for the collaborative program or licensing plan is submitted for evaluation, the center may request a business development plan to eliminate technically unqualified companies from consideration and to ensure the appropriateness of the planned resource or technology use.

STEP 4. APPLICANT SELECTION: Reviewers, including representatives from noncompeting businesses and the centers' legal and technical/scientific offices, consider all aspects of each proposal, after which the company most appropriate for the interaction is selected.

National Competitiveness Technology Transfer Act of 1989
Last year, in the continuing effort to facilitate interaction between the public and DOE national laboratories, the U.S. Congress passed the National Competitiveness Technology Transfer Act. When implemented, this law will allow more direct interaction among the research laboratories, industry, academia, and state and local government agencies.


Written by Denise K. Casey
HGMIS, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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The electronic form of the newsletter may be cited in the following style:
Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v2n5).

Human Genome Project 1990–2003

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international 13-year effort, 1990 to 2003. Primary goals were to discover the complete set of human genes and make them accessible for further biological study, and determine the complete sequence of DNA bases in the human genome. See Timeline for more HGP history.

Human Genome News

Published from 1989 until 2002, this newsletter facilitated HGP communication, helped prevent duplication of research effort, and informed persons interested in genome research.