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NIAID, TIGR, and Affymetrix Team to Offer Researchers Free Access to SARS GeneChips

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The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases this week announced that it will distribute some 300 Affymetrix brand GeneChip microarrays containing SARS gene sequence information in an alliance with Affymetrix, and the Institute for Genomic Research.

“We want to make available a number of tools; this is the first,” Linda Lambert, SARS program officer for NIAID, told BioArray News.

While the SARS virus crisis has abated, researchers are concerned about a return of the deadly and previously unknown disease when temperatures drop in the fall. Thus, the next few months are seen as a critical time for developing defenses and acquiring new knowledge about it.

“People are worried on several fronts,” said Lambert, who is also the agency’s flu program officer. “Will it be confused with influenza; and will it adapt in people, mutate, and cause another outbreak?”

With that in mind, the agency quickly decided to provide this tool to researchers globally.

“The decision to do it took days, it didn’t take long to go through channels,” said Lambert. The Affymetrix platform was selected, she said, because the agency had a relationship with TIGR and Affymetrix. “It was a work relationship that already existed,” she said.

NIAID has purchased some 300 of the SARS microarrays, which contain the 29,700 DNA base pairs of the SARS coronavirus based on sequence data obtained from research centers in the US, Canada, and Asia.

The NIAID’s Pathogen Functional Genomics Research Center, which is operated by TIGR, will manage placement of the chips, which will be distributed at no cost to qualified researchers.

“There will be some type of screening done,” said Lambert. “We want to know that [researchers] are working to the development of something where this chip could provide something meaningful. We think this will be really valuable in speeding up the rate of research.”

–MOK

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