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Syngenta Announces Sequence-Sharing Details; Rice Research Rushes Ahead

NEW YORK, May 23 - Syngenta said today it has agreed to terms by which it will share its rice sequence and assembly data with the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project.


Through the arrangement, consortium members will use Syngenta's sequence and assembly data to improve and perfect their own.


Syngenta's draft, created with the whole-genome shotgun method, is estimated to be 99.8 percent accurate. The consortium plans to publish once their version is 99.99 percent accurate.


The company will transfer its assembled sequence, underlying sequence files, and chromosome assignment information to Tokyo's National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences and The Institute for Genomic Research, Syngenta said. The consortium has split up the sequencing work by chromosome.


Sequence data will be deposited in GenBank. The project may be finished within 12 to 18 months, according to the company.


Currently, Syngenta allows academic researchers to access up to 100kb of data each week with no reach-through rights, or will make the full assembly available on CD-ROM for those willing to sign an agreement. According to the company, more than 700 researchers have already accessed the data.


Meanwhile, the company is blazing ahead with its functional-genomics work, said Steven Briggs, president of the Torrey Mesa Research Institute, Syngenta's genomics division.


"Most of the work is associating genes with phenotypes, particularly commercial crop phenotypes," he said. "There is a lot of science like that going on that we expect to feed into more commercial efforts."


TMRI researchers are probing the rice proteome, mapping traits, and identifying markers. Affymetrix is also manufacturing a 50,000-gene whole rice-genome chip for Syngenta. 


The finished rice genome will be the "cornerstone" of the company's genomic crop research and provide Syngenta researchers with insights into more commercially important crops, said Briggs.


"I think it'll be some years before the intensity diminishes," he said. "The exciting thing is that by linking up these molecular markers that are conserved across species, we've been able to stitch together the genomes of wheat with rice, barley with rice, and maize with rice--to construct virtual genomes of these organisms."

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