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U. Washington Institute Will Analyze SNPs

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SEATTLE--The University of Washington, in collaboration with Orchid Biocomputer, a bioinformatics company headquartered in Princeton, NJ, announced it will establish a new Institute for Quantitative Systems Biology here. Leroy Hood, chair of the university's molecular biology department, will oversee the project.

The institute will be among the first to utilize Orchid's new SNPstream system, automated genotyping technology that enables researchers to score up to 30,000 genotypes per day for pharmacogenetic analysis of clinical sample sequencers.

SNPstream is "10 times faster than what is currently available to well equipped laboratories" for analyzing single-nucleotide polymorphisms, said Dale Pfost, Orchid's chairman and CEO. "The aim now is to increase the number of samples that can be scored for the presence or absence of particular SNPs in a cost-efficient manner."

The institute will open on the University of Washington campus by late spring, Pfost said.

Hood said that making large numbers of SNPs more readily available will "revolutionize human genetics," providing a powerful, high-throughput approach to the systems analysis of human development, the immune system, and cancer. "It's a broadly applicable technology, used for uncovering why patients respond differently to drugs, for example," Pfost said.

Pfost and Hood met 13 years ago in California while collaborating through Pfost's previous company, Infinitek, the maker of the Biomek 1000 robotic gel loader. They have since teamed up for a proteomics product at the University of Washington.

Orchid Biocomputer expects to release the SNP analysis system to academic centers and pharmaceutical companies in October or November.

--Amy E. Nevala

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