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TIGR Receives NIAID Grant to Sequence C. Neoformans

NEW YORK, April 25 – The Institute for Genomic Research said Wednesday it has received a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to complete the sequencing of Cryptococcus neoformans , an organism that causes cryptococcosis, a potentially deadly fungal disease.

The TIGR sequencing effort, under the direction of Claire Fraser, TIGR’s president, will build upon the work of the Stanford Sequencing Center, which released a preliminary version of the genome in October of 2000 with an average sequence coverage of 2.8x.

The grant will provide funds for TIGR to generate an additional 4x sequence coverage, assemble the sequence data from both sequencing centers, and close gaps in the sequence. TIGR will also attempt to identify the open reading frames in the genome with computer models and link the open reading frames to proteins of known function.

The organism is important, according to TIGR, because crytococcosis is deadly to many people with AIDS unless they are treated with expensive anti-fungal drugs. “It’s one of the biggest killers of humans after malaria,” said Sharon Dukes, a spokeswoman for TIGR.

In addition to its relevance to medicine, the C. neoformans genome may also help agricultural researchers. When finished, the sequence of C. neoformans will be the first complete genome in the group of fungi called basidiomycetes, which includes edible mushrooms as well as destructive plant pathogens such as smuts and rust.   
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