Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program
Human Genome News Archive Edition
Human Genome News, May 1991; 3(1)
First for U.S. Human Genome Project At a signing ceremony on March 21, representatives from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Life Technologies, Inc., (LTI) approved a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), the first between a DOE human genome center and a private-sector corporation. This CRADA is also the first for LANL, for DOE defense-oriented laboratories, for the DOE Albuquerque operations office, and for the U.S. Human Genome Project.
The 3-year agreement calls for investigators from LANL and LTI to cooperate in developing faster and cheaper techniques for determining the base sequence of the human genome in much longer DNA fragments than now possible. This effort would be difficult for either team alone, and the collaboration promises to be fruitful for both parties. No money will change hands between the two organizations. LTI will have the first opportunity to license any products resulting from the joint effort and would pay royalties to LANL under such a license.
A mission of the DOE Human Genome Program is to transfer technologies developed in research laboratories to the private sector. This CRADA, an example of basic science and applied technology moving forward simultaneously, will set the stage for increased industry access to laboratory technology and will help government laboratories draw on private-sector resources.
In announcing the pact, Deputy Secretary of Energy W. Henson Moore said, "This agreement signifies a new partnership between government and industry researchers to work together to advance scientific knowledge and, equally important, to apply it in practical technologies to benefit the American people and the American economy."
The United States is considered outstanding in developing technology but not in transferring it from federal organizations to the private sector. An innovative response by Congress to the growing challenge of U.S. competitiveness, CRADAs are designed to make the laboratories more user friendly, facilitate technology transfer, and foster economic competitiveness by encouraging laboratory-industry partnerships.
In addition to providing an important vehicle to leverage research dollars, CRADAs help fulfill the vision of national laboratories solving complex, nationally important problems by demonstrating that investing in science can ultimately impact competitiveness. Several more CRADAs are now being planned, and DOE is committed to moving quickly and efficiently into future agreements.
The authority to enter into CRADAs was extended to DOE contractor-operated laboratories through the National Competitiveness Technology Transfer Act of 1989, cosponsored by New Mexico Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman. "Human gene mapping holds tremendous potential for improving the quality of life for so many," said Domenici, who envisioned research partnerships among the laboratories, businesses, and universities to work on projects such as human genome, high-temperature superconductivity, and semiconductors.
The research described in the agreement will use an LTI-modified DNA polymerase to label a single DNA strand with four different fluorescent, base-specific tags; an exonuclease is then used to cut the labeled nucleic acid base pairs from the DNA. To determine the DNA base sequence, the individual labeled bases are induced to fluoresce in one of four colors as they pass sequentially through a focused laser beam. The bases can be identified and counted by a sensitive photodetector.
The most commonly used commercial sequencing methods can handle only short DNA fragments of about 500 bp. If this new technology proves successful, researchers will be able to sequence fragments at least 100 times longer. A team of LANL researchers, led by Richard Keller and funded by the DOE Human Genome Program, will offer expertise in physical chemistry, detection technologies, instrumentation, and DNA handling to bring to fruition a novel DNA sequencing technique patented by several LANL scientists.
The LTI scientists, led by John Harding since 1989, will concentrate on developing the new enzymes and modified nucleotides essential for sequencing DNA with the new technology. Harding's research efforts have centered on creating new tools and applying existing ones to analyze and map mammalian genomes.
"It's high risk, high payoff. If we can make it work, it will improve sequencing rates by several orders of magnitude. We're shooting for about 1000 base pairs a second, compared with current commercial sequencing rates of less than 10,000 base pairs a day," Keller said. The projected rate of 1000 bp/s is derived from enzymatic rates of cleavage and rates of detection.
Through its BRL and GIBCO brands, LTI is a leading supplier worldwide of molecular biology and cell and tissue culture products to academic and industrial laboratories involved in genetic and other basic biology research. The company, headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has commercialized many enzymes and several modified nucleotides and now develops an average of 400 new products each year.
LTI President and Chief Executive Officer J. Stark Thompson stated, "We are confident that our agreement with Los Alamos will lead to the development of products that will significantly move forward the pace of human genome research. An added benefit is that these results will strengthen the nation's biotechnology industry in the world marketplace."
Operated by the University of California for DOE, LANL was founded in 1943 during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project. Historically, the defense-oriented national laboratories have focused on national security issues, but now their technical base is recognized for contributions in other important complex technological areas.
For more information on the LANL-LTI CRADA, contact:
Reported by Anne Adamson
The electronic form of the newsletter may be cited in the following style:
Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v3n1).
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.
Published from 1989 until 2002, this newsletter facilitated HGP communication, helped prevent duplication of research effort, and informed persons interested in genome research.