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UPDATE: Incyte Chosen by UK Academic Centers to Sequence Chicken Genome

NEW YORK, Oct. 10 - Incyte Genomics has been selected by three prominent universities and a leading British research facility to sequence the chicken genome, Incyte recently announced.  

The Chicken Sequencing Project, as it is known, is the first significant study of avian genomics and is believed to be “a pioneer project for all avian species,” Incyte said.

The project will be funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council—Britain’s leading funding agency for academic research and training in the non-medical life sciences—and directed by scientists from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, the University of Nottingham, the University of Dundee, and the Roslin Institute. 

Incyte is doing the work on a contract basis through its custom sequencing service, and will build EST libraries and perform bioinformatics prior to delivering the results to the universities, according to Meghan Lane, a product manager at Incyte. While Lane declined to reveal Incyte’s fee, she called the project “pretty big” relative to work being done for other custom sequencing clients. 

All data will be owned by the universities, with no intellectual property held by Incyte, according to Lane. The results are slated for presentation by the universities at the Chicken Genome Workshop on Dec. 15-16 at the Manchester Conference Center, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.   All data produced by the chicken project will be available for free to the scientific community through public databases once the project has been completed, Incyte said. 

The study hopes “to identify many of the genes important in embryological development and basic cellular functions” in chickens, according to a statement released on Oct. 3. Specifically, the project plans to create a genomic database of particular chicken-cell lines that allow individual genes to be manipulated, which in turn might help researchers understand genomic function.  

Cheryll A. Tickle, professor in the School of Life Sciences at Dundee University, said: "The database of 300,000 gene sequences collected by Incyte Genomics is terribly important. The project on chickens is directly relevant to learning more about ourselves because human genes have chick equivalents. So, finding out what chicken genes are for has a direct impact on human biology," she said.

"Better knowledge of chicken functional genomics may have a significant impact on the study of retrovirology and embryology," said William R.A. Brown, a scholar in Genetics at the Institute of Genetics at Nottingham University. "In the long term, medical researchers on diseases caused by retroviruses such as tumors, wasting, and autoimmune diseases, immunodeficiency syndromes, and aplastic and hemolytic anemias will benefit from the Chicken EST database."

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