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UPDATE: Celera Sequences Most of Mouse Genome

This story is updated from a previous version.

NEW YORK, Oct 12 – After its watershed announcement Thursday that it had completed sequencing of 9.3 billion base pairs of mouse DNA, Celera Genomics said it would rely mainly on sequence data from a rival public-private consortium to finish the project.

" We have 95 percent of the mouse genome," said Paul Gilman, director of policy planning for Celera. " We can incorporate the data generated by the consortium and boost up [our genome] approaching the level of the human or fly."

Celera, of Rockville, Md., which began sequencing the mouse in April, said Thursday it had 3X coverage from sequences of three strains of mouse: the 129/SvJ, DBA/2J, and A/J strains.

" The mouse genome is an invaluable tool to interpret the human genome and in biomedical research using mice as animal models," Craig Venter, president and chief scientific officer of Celera, said in a statement.

The announcement followed Friday's news that a consortium, whose members include Affymetrix, SmithKline Beecham, the Merck Genome Research Institute, the US National Institutes of Health, and the Wellcome Trust, would provide $58 million to researchers over the next six months to decipher the mouse genetic code.   

The researchers supported by the consortium, working at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and the Sanger Centre, are sequencing a slightly different breed of mouse: a strain known as C57BL6/J, commonly called “Black 6”.

By February 2001, the consortium is planning to have a 2.5X to 3X coverage of about 95 percent of the unassembled mouse genome. The data will be publicly available for the unrestricted use of biomedical researchers worldwide. Meanwhile the 500-base shotgun sequences will be deposited regularly in a newly-established public database operated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the European Bioinformatics Institute.

Celera's mouse genome database will only be available to labs and companies that pay the standard subscription fee for its human and drosophila data, Celera said.

For access to Celera's database of human, mouse, and drosophila DNA, pharmaceutical companies must pay between $5 and $15 million, while academic labs are charged $6,000 to $15,000 per scientist.

Celera also has located numerous SNPs among the three mouse strains, which it intends to compile into a mouse SNP database that researchers who subscribe to Celera’s data can use to make sense out of their genomic data.

Celera said the information from the consortium's research would complement its data, and add to the diversity in its SNP database.

But the company's customers will not have to wait until the consortium's work is finished to get their mouse genome data. Most of the mouse genome is already available to Celera's customers, Gilman said, but " the pipeline lags several weeks behind."

Scientists working in the consortium's effort criticized Celera's strategy of making the mouse available on a subscriber-only basis.

" Wouldn’t it be nice if it were in the public domain?” said Jane Rogers, project manager human sequencing program at the Sanger center in the UK.

" It’s publicly available to anyone who wants to subscribe," said Gilman.

Celera has no plans to publish the mouse genome.

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