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Year of the Dragon

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The long-awaited Dragon Genomics sequencing center, reportedly the largest in Japan, officially began operations April 18.

With 30 Amersham MegaBACE 1000 sequencers processing 17 megabases per day at full capacity, and technology-sharing agreements with Lynx Therapeutics, GeneFormatics, and Mitsubishi Electric, Dragon, a subsidiary of Takara Shuzo, aims to dominate the domestic sequencing and expression services market and become a competitive force worldwide. By year’s end Dragon expects to triple its capacity.

Research at the center includes a joint project with Sanwa Chemical Labs to sequence the chimpanzee genome and conduct comparative disease studies (separate from the RIKEN effort).

Takara projects Dragon Genomics’ sales for the rest of 2001 at ¥2.2 billion. The projected figures nearly triple for the following year and are expected to reach ¥10 billion for 2003.

Leftover sequencing capacity will be used to advance such internal projects as sequencing the genomes of regional organisms such as mushrooms and seaweed. In November 2000, Takara announced an agreement with the government of Mongolia that will allow Takara to sequence samples of Mongolian people’s DNA as the first step toward a database of Asian (though that term is still nebulously defined) DNA.

Takara public information officer Masayuki Nakao emphasized that it will become important to have genomic data specific to various ethnic populations in order to conduct drug tests and verify safety and effective dosage amounts.

Dragon was established as a subsidiary of Takara Shuzo in July of last year with ¥5 billion in capital.

— Sara Harris

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