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Sequencing Venter Centers May Be Good for TIGR After All

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When Craig Venter announced his intention last year to establish two new non-profit foundations for genomic research in suburban Maryland, it was clear TIGR would have to get used to the idea of sharing with its new siblings.

In fact, as Venter solidified his plans for the foundations over the past year, TIGR’s future responsibility for brute-force sequencing seemed to diminish, with Venter deciding to build a mammoth new sequencing facility to serve all the institutes. Instead, TIGR would be left the far-from-trivial job of closing and finishing genome sequences.

But TIGR is at least getting something to add to its fief. As the steel skeleton of a new four-story building rises next door to TIGR’s Rockville digs, the institute can look forward to taking over the bottom two floors to accommodate its staff, which includes some 100 bioinformatics researchers scrambling for space in TIGR’s current four-building compound. The top two floors of the new structure will hold the labs and administrative offices for The Center for the Advancement of Genomics, the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives, and the J. Craig Venter Foundation, according to a TCAG spokeswoman.

In the short term, however, TIGR has boosted its own sequencing capacity. While Venter retrofits a lab space across town to accommodate the new mega-sequencing center, TIGR added 24 Applied Biosystems 3730 sequencers in late December, more than doubling its sequencing capacity, a TIGR spokesman says.

TIGR is also building on its year-old program in functional genomics, says president Claire Fraser. In addition to John Quackenbush’s work in DNA microarrays (see p. 52), TIGR is also planning to establish a program for training visiting scientists in how to set up and analyze microarray experiments. The planned week-long course would encourage researchers to bring their sample to TIGR for analysis, and teach them both wet-lab and software skills. The idea, says Fraser, is to give scientists an idea of the value inherent in microarray experiments, as a well as a “sense of their limitations.”

— John S. MacNeil

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