NEW YORK, April 4 - Syngenta said today that it will work with public-research labs over the next 12 to 18 months to finish sequencing 99.99 percent of its rice genome, which it will then deposit into Genbank.
But in the mean time the company, one of the largest agbio concerns in the world, will use that window to cash in as much as it can on the sequence it now has.
The current draft sequence of the japonica strain, which boasts roughly 45,000 genes along 420 million base pairs on 12 chromosomes, is freely available at the Torrey Mesa Research Institute's website.
"The access that we're providing today is only to our map, which is 99.8 percent accurate," said Steven Briggs, head of genomics at Syngenta. "What we would like to do is work with our friends at the Beijing Institute and the members of the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project to produce a finished sequence that is 99.99 percent accurate, and which would include our data.
"And we would support the deposit of that finished sequence into Genbank," he declared. "The deposit of [the 99.99 percent] sequence today would be immature, because today it provides Syngenta with a significant commercial advantage. But we see a process of 12 to 18 months to ... produce something that is significantly better as being an appropriate humanitarian effort that we're willing to fulfill."
Briggs spoke in a telephone conference this afternoon accompanied by Gane Ka-Shu Wong, a senior researcher at the University of Washington Genome Center and co-author of the paper that will run in tomorrow's issue of Science, as well as Don Kennedy, the journal's editor in chief.
During Syngenta's project, which it said cost "tens of millions of dollars to complete," the firm also noticed that roughly 98 percent of the genes found in corn, wheat, and barley also appear in rice. This observation has led the company to map more than 2,000 traits from these cereals.
"What that does is it aligns the chromosomes of all of these species with each other," said Briggs. "As a result, for any given region--let's say in maize--we can go to the corresponding region in rice and identify all of the genes that are present there."