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UPDATE: Incyte Announces Contribution to Stanford s Gene Ontology Project

This story has been updated from a previous version.

NEW YORK, Jan 4 - Incyte Genomics said Thursday it would make a financial contribution to the Gene Ontology project at Stanford University for the development of a scientific standard for gene function.

The gift comes as a result of Incyte’s collaboration with the Gene Ontology Consortium, which aims to create a common language to share information on the functional analysis of genes. Stanford is a contributor to the consortium, which also includes several academic, governmental, and commercial groups.

The funding will go directly to Stanford’s department of genetics. Stanford’s Michael Cherry, who heads the Gene Ontology project, said that Incyte’s contribution “will no doubt have a substantial impact on the pace of research ongoing in our laboratory."

Incyte will also grant Stanford a royalty-free license for the Gene Ontology Consortium to use Incyte's proprietary Protein Functional Hierarchy, a vocabulary for the functional categorization of genes that the company has been using for annotation.

Cherry said that while the Protein Functional Hierarchy works on a different level from that of the Gene Ontology project, “We’ll be able to link their information, not necessarily one-to-one, into the ontology.”

He described the ontology as a “network of biological terms that will act as a control vocabulary.”  

Michael Ashburner of the European Bioinformatics Institute and a member of the consortium, applauded the increased push to establish a gene ontology.

" One major advantage is that if different 'single-organism' databases adopted the same ontology, then the scientific community would have a powerful method for exploring the functional aspects of the genomes of several different organisms,” he said. ”Another major advantage is that this will provide an aid to the discovery of the function of new sequences."

According to Incyte, a common language for gene annotation will allow researchers to better predict the type of protein encoded by gene sequences, which will help drug companies effectively target drug development while weeding out ineffective leads.

Proteome, Celera, and AstraZeneca are also participating in the Gene Ontology project. Cherry noted that AstraZeneca supplied the initial funding to launch the project.

Cherry said that the project anticipates a grant from the NIH's National Human Genome Institute in the near future.

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