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USC Scientists Develop Tool That Accelerates Gene Discovery Process


LOS ANGELES--The pharmaceutical and bioinformatics community is interested in a new research tool, ExonPCR, developed by researchers at the University of Southern California here, that promises to greatly accelerate the process through which disease-causing genes are discovered. Although several bioscience companies have inquired about it, a major pharmaceutical company is in advanced talks with the school to gain access to the new technique, Pavel Pevzner, a computational biologist who helped create the technique, told BioInform. He declined to name the company or give details about the potential deal, but said an agreement should be reached soon.

Pevzner discussed Exon PCR at the Gene Discovery in Silicon Conference in Atlanta earlier this month. The tool was developed by a team that included both molecular biologists and mathematicians, and is designed to work with DNA chip technology. The researchers described it as "gene hunting without DNA sequencing."

"We believe that the technique will greatly speed the identification of mutations, with direct applications for research into genetically based human disease," stated Norman Arnheim, a gene researcher at the university who worked with Pevzner to develop ExonPCR. "It's a very marketable technology, because it saves time and money," Pevzner said. He added that anything that saves time sequencing genes will be useful to bioinformatics firms. The research was funded with grants from the National Institutes of Health, the US Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.

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