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Pharma, Computer Execs Gather to Discuss Supporting Harvard s cDNA Repository

NEW YORK, May 18 - Representatives from over 40 pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and computer hardware companies met this week in Boston to discuss organizing a public and private consortium to build a repository for full-length cDNA clones, said Joshua LaBaer, the director of the Institute of Proteomics at Harvard Medical School.

At the May 15 meeting, LaBaer said that more than 20 companies pledged to contribute some financial support to the project, known as FLEXGene, and that in general, everyone left with a lot of enthusiasm, wanting to get the project off the ground.

Representatives from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense also attended the meeting, Labaer said. "We tried to be as broad in our inclusion as possible."

The initial funding, on the order of a few hundred thousand dollars, will go toward establishing committees of scientific advisors, lawyers, and managers, said LaBaer. Once the organizational infrastructure is in place, the consortium will look to raise additional funds for scaling up the cDNA repository. 

The consortium plans to clone two cDNA fragments for each of 50,000 genes, one with and one without the stop codon, LaBaer said. Harvard's Institute of Proteomics has estimated it will cost $100 million to sequence 100,000 cDNA clones.

However, once the scientific advisory committee is in place, the consortium may decide to expand the scope of the FLEXGene repository to include all cDNA clones, including all splice variants, LaBaer added.

LaBaer has said the project was particularly important since it would allow researchers to bypass the time consuming and costly task of developing the clones themselves, thus enabling scientists to speed up the study of proteins and ultimately develop new treatments faster.

LaBaer said the next step was to follow up with the companies who did not immediately commit to contributing money to the project. "We have to get them to put their money where their mouth is," he said.
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