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Human Genome News Archive Edition

Human Genome News, September 1993; 5(3)

Galas Leaves OHER for New Biotech Company

After serving more than 3 years as Associate Director of the DOE Office of Health and Environmental Research (OHER), David J. Galas has joined Darwin Molecular Corporation, a biotechnology company located in Seattle, Washington. He also plans to resume some of his academic activities. Aristotle Patrinos, Director of the OHER Environmental Sciences Division, has been named Acting Associate Director to replace Galas.

Galas had been appointed to his OHER position under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, which is used by some federal agencies to enlist individuals from academia and state and local governments on a temporary basis. Galas was on leave from the University of Southern California, where he was Director of Molecular Biology and a Professor of Biological Sciences. His best-known scientific accomplishment is the "footprinting" technique, a method widely used to define DNA sequence-specific sites for protein binding.

While at OHER, Galas supervised five divisions with an annual budget of about $350 million. He provided overall leadership for the DOE Human Genome Program and three other interdivisional programs and expanded genome research areas to include more biological components. Under his direction, a comparative study was implemented to map and partially sequence human and model organism genomes (especially the mouse) to obtain greater understanding of genome organization and function.

Galas also initiated and led the effort to coordinate and integrate all government-sponsored biotechnology research, which became known as the Presidential Initiative in Biotechnology Research. Recommendations from Biotechnology for the 21st Century, a special report generated through the initiative by the Committee on Life Sciences and Health, were included in the FY 1993 presidential budget. A strategic goal cited in the report is accelerated transfer of biotechnology research to commercial applications, a process seen as crucial in maintaining U.S. leadership in the rapidly growing biotechnology industry.

Galas will direct research and development efforts at Darwin Molecular Corporation, one of many new companies formed to pursue commercial opportunities arising from genome research. Darwin plans to establish a large-scale facility to lower costs and increase by 10- to 100-fold the sequencing throughput of disease-associated human genome regions. Gene targets for drug design and evolution and their appropriateness for further development will be determined through structural information generated by computer analysis of these sequences.

Biotech Companies Use New Approach to Drug Discovery

To create and screen huge numbers of diverse molecules for potential therapeutic use, Darwin and other biotechnology companies are using promising new techniques such as directed molecular evolution. This method allows the rapid construction in test tubes of large peptide, protein, and oligonucleotide libraries, which are then subjected to functional screening. Molecules that best perform a desired task (i.e., the "fittest" molecules) are reproduced by the millions and tested again. Screening is repeated generation after generation until new designer-made molecules with unique desired properties are produced, usually within a few weeks. This approach to drug discovery has proven very powerful in generating new chemical entities with the ability to bind to a number of therapeutically useful targets active in heart disease, inflammation, and AIDS.


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Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v5n3).

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.