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Maryland's IGS Lands $20M NIAID Pathogen Sequencing Contract

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland has won a $20 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to create a center for sequencing pathogens such as those that cause infectious diseases or which may be used as bioweapons, the university said today.

The school will use the funding to create a Genomics Sequencing Center for Infectious Diseases, which will generate data that can be used to develop new diagnostic and treatment tools for combating outbreaks of emerging pathogens, such as the 2009 H1N1, SARS, or foodborne illnesses, as well as biothreats.

The terms of the contract encourage IGS to collaborate with other doctors and scientists who have unusual or significant pathogen samples and who can propose sequencing projects. These partners will gain access to the genomic information IGS discovers.

The funding will cover the cost of sequencing and analysis, and will be used to create a library of information that will be shared with other researchers around the country.

"With the help of the next-generation genomic sequencing equipment we have acquired at IGS, this contract will serve as a ready-made funding mechanism that could allow us to sequence as many as 500 to 600 DNA samples in five years," IGS Director and University of Maryland Professor Claire Fraser-Liggett said in a statement.

NIAID drafted the genome centers program to enable centers to respond within days or weeks in the event of a bioterror attack or the outbreak of a foodborne illness. If a foodborne illness occurred, for example, IGS will be able to gain approval quickly for a project to sequence and analyze the organism's genome, according to the university.

"We hope that by accelerating the process of sequencing and analyzing the DNA of these infectious diseases, we can also help speed scientists nationwide toward finding cures or vaccines for diseases that threaten lives in the U.S. and worldwide, such as pandemic influenza," said Fraser-Liggett.

Last week, the J. Craig Venter Institute said that it had landed a $43 million contract from NIAID to support its sequencing activities as one of the Genomic Sequencing Centers for Infectious Diseases.

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