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UCSF, Abbott Partner on New Pathogen Dx Lab

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of California, San Francisco, and Abbott have partnered to launch a new research center that aims to develop diagnostic technologies for identifying viruses based on their DNA profiles.

The UCSF Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center, located near the school’s Mission Bay, Calif., campus, will use sequencing, microarrays, and other genomic technologies to characterize pathogens linked to acute and chronic human illnesses.

One of the lab's first projects will include sequencing strains of the H1N1 influenza found in patients in Mexico, the US, and Canada in order to study the stability of the virus is and how it changes as it spreads. The lab also is working to characterize strains of HIV from Cameroon.

In addition to sequencing, researchers at the center will also use the ViroChip microarray — developed in 2003 by UCSF's Joe DeRisi and Donald Gane to identify the virus causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome — in their work.

UCSF said in a statement that the center will be "unique in offering both viral discovery as well as serving as a diagnostic resource for clinical researchers and physicians." The center will also help Abbott develop diagnostic technologies and tests for new infectious agents, particularly tools for screening blood supplies.

Abbott has been working with UCSF scientists to create the center for the last two years and last year provided its construction and equipment costs, the university said. Financial details of the partnership were not provided.

"This center could prove to be a powerful partnership for detecting more infectious agents, leading to the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics,” said John Hackett, who manages Abbott’s Virus Discovery Program, in a statement.

"In the past two decades, many human diseases, including ulcers and cervical cancer, have been discovered to be caused by bacteria or viruses," Hackett added.

The center houses an Agilent 2 µm DNA microarray scanner, Biosafety Level 2-tissue culture suite, Stratagene 3005P real-time PCR instrument, several thermocyclers, and an 8-core compute cluster. The center also has access to an Illumina Genetic Analyzer II for deep sequencing through the UCSF Center for Advanced Technology.

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