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NIH Establishes Mouse Sequencing Project, Forms 10-Lab Network that Includes GTC

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BETHESDA, Md.--The US National Institutes of Health announced last week that it will launch, earlier than expected, a mouse genome sequencing project. Ten laboratories have been selected to be part of the Mouse Genome Sequencing Network and receive, initially, $21 million in combined funding over seven months.

Academic and public labs receiving grant money for mapping or sequencing or both are: Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Baylor College of Medicine; Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; the Institute for Genomic Research; NIH Intramural Sequencing Center; University of Oklahoma; University of Utah; Washington University School of Medicine; and Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Genome Therapeutics, which will receive $12.9 million over three years from the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH, was the only commercial entity to be named to the mouse network. NIH said it considered each lab's ability to sequence DNA accurately and efficiently. Jane Peterson, program director for large scale sequencing at NHGRI, told BioInform that the grantees' bioinformatics capabilities, "in the sense of being able to handle data and take shotgun reads and put them together," were also considered.

The mouse genome project will follow the same strategy that has been adopted by the Human Genome Project, the NIH announced, by first focusing on completing an intermediate draft version of the sequence by 2003, and then filling gaps and finishing the sequence by 2005. Francis Collins, head of NHGRI, said recent technological advances and support from the scientific community have allowed NIH to take on the estimated 3-billion base project. "Prior to last year, this task was not officially one of our goals because it seemed too daunting to try to sequence both genomes," he said.

Peterson said the NIH grantees will meet later this month at an international mouse genome research meeting to coordinate their efforts among themselves and with other mouse researchers. While no international mouse genome sequencing project exists, she said, efforts are underway in some labs to sequence regions of the genome, particularly syntenic regions.

Lynn Doucette-Stamm, director of genomics for Genome Therapeutics' GTC Sequencing Center, which was awarded $15 million in July to contribute to the Human Genome Project, told BioInform that her group will begin mouse sequencing on some of its more than 40 PE ABI 377 machines while it conducts quality testing to chosse between PE's ABI 3700 and Molecular Dynamics' MegaBace sequencers. While Genome Therapeutics will not profit from its role in either the mouse or human project, Stamm acknowledged that there are perks. "It allows us to exchange technology with other top sequencers of the world and continue to grow the system," she said, adding, "And there are payoffs in terms of getting customers. I can tell people how good our quality is, but there's nothing like being validated by peer review."

--Adrienne Burke

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