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New Japanese Venture, Dragon Genomics, Seeks Bioinformatics Partners to Outdo Celera


TOKYO--Takara Shuzo, a large Japanese manufacturer of liquor and seasonings, told BioInform it is seeking bioinformatics partnerships to carry out its plan to establish a “world-class center for high-speed genome analysis” here.


“We have accumulated a lot of expertise in genomics, gene, and DNA analysis,” a Takara spokesman told BioInform. “We also have enough experience in analyzing those data through computers. However, we do not have enough experience in hardware and software development for bioinformatics. Thus we may need to have partners in the area.”


The new center, to be called Dragon Genomics, will be affiliated with Takara’s biomedical group, which will increase its capacity for genome analysis 30-fold. The company’s total estimated investment in the new initiative is -6 billion. Another Takara subsidiary, a DNA research facility called Dalian in China, will provide DNA fragments to Dragon, eventually on the order of 20,000 to 30,000 a day.


Takara has said it aims to exceed even Celera’s sequencing capacity by using new RISA-384 sequencers from Shimadzu and a method of high-speed sequencing called Amplification and Sequencing by Interlaced Nesting. Researchers at the School of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, developed the method and have commercialized it through Nucleics, a company they established there. Takara said it would buy all intellectual property rights to the sequencing method from Nucleics and file for patents worldwide.


Takara’s spokesman described the sequencing method as advanced primer-walking. The process, which the company said is too expensive to be used for whole-genome sequencing, requires sequencing primers for each round, during which about 500 bases of determined sequence are generated.


As opposed to shotgun sequencing, which is mainly used to sequence long strands of genomic DNA, the interlaced nesting method uses primers that are newly synthesized corresponding to sequences determined by each round of sequencing, thereby extending the sequence by the following round of sequencing. Primers are selected from a universal pre-synthesized primer library of 400 oligonucleotides, designed by Nucleics’ proprietary technology. ASIN avoids redundant sequencing of base pairs in a genome, while multiple regions can be sequenced simultaneously.


The company claimed that the method could speed up genome sequencing 10 times over the shotgun sequencing method.


--Sandra Katzman

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