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Human Genome News Archive Edition
Vol.9, No.3   July 1998

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Also available in pdf.

1997 Santa Fe Highlights

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Bang for the Buck: Government-Backed Research Underpins Potentially High Payoff Ventures

Spinoffs of Human Genome Project technologies continue to impact U.S. Industries, including medicine, environmental technology, agriculture, chemicals, and energy production. U.S. leadership in science and technology reaffirms the value of publicly funded research such as that supported at universities and national laboratories and in industry. Two recent spinoffs from the DOE Human Genome Program follow.

Biochip Agreement Aimed at Commercial Use

Companies to Refine Genome Technology for Mass Production

In June DOE announced that Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Motorola Inc., and Packard Instrument Company have agreed to develop and mass-produce biochips. Motorola and Packard will contribute a total of $19 million over 5years, making this collaboration one of the largest biotechnology research agreements ever signed by a DOE national laboratory.

Like computer chips that execute millions of mathematical operations per second, biochips can quickly perform thousands of biological reactions. "This process, developed for DOE's Human Genome Program, provides miniaturized, faster, and more economical methods to analyze DNA samples," said former Secretary of Energy Federico Peña.

"By combining biochips with robots and computers, we can find one genetic variation among 3 billion DNA bases in a matter of minutes. Conventional methods take days," said Andrei Mirzabekov, a biologist who developed the biochips at ANL and at the Russian Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology. "In addition to being faster than conventional gene-sequencing methods, biochips provide a 3-D platform that allows greater sensitivity and accuracy in assaying proteins, RNA, and DNA," he noted.

Argonne's contribution, in conjunction with its Moscow research partner, consists of 19 inventions related to biological microchips that have been licensed exclusively to Motorola and Packard. These inventions are the result of more than $10million in research support since 1994 by DOE, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Russian Academy of Sciences, and Russian Human Genome Program. Motorola will develop manufacturing processes to mass-produce biochips, and Packard will develop and manufacture analytical instruments to process and analyze them.

Biochips have immediate practical applications for analyzing polymorphisms, studying gene expression, and monitoring clinical trials. Richard McKernan, president of Packard, noted that within the next few years commercial biochips should bring "better, more rapidly developed pharmaceuticals; faster and more accurate medical diagnostics; a heightened ability to assess and possibly repair environmental damage; and better, more hardy, and healthier crops." The transition of biochips into the clinical diagnostics market is expected in 4 to 5 years.

Sheath-Flow Fluorescence Detection for DNA Capillary Electrophoresis

In sheath-flow systems, analytes exiting a capillary are transported in a flow of buffer and moved across interrogating laser beams. Higher sensitivity is achieved by avoiding a major source of background noise caused by direct laser action on capillaries in which DNA fragments have been separated.

Norman Dovichi [University of Edmonton, Alberta (UEA)] contributed to the development of detection systems for flow cytometry while at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Subsequently at UEA his team pioneered sheath-flow fluorescence readout technology for DNA capillary electrophoresis. In 1996 Dovichi received the American Chemical Society Award in Chemical Instrumentation for research in this project, which had some early support from DOE and major funding from Canadian sources. An article in Science 280, 995 (1998) shows a Dovichi sheath-flow detector.


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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 (v9n3).

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.