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Washington University St. Louis, NHGRI, NIMH, NCI, Washington State, Population Genetics Technologies, SGI, Malaysian Genome Institute

Consortium Finishes Corn Draft Genome
At research team led by Washington University in St. Louis has finished a draft of the corn, or maize, genome and plans to present the project later this week at the 50th Annual Maize Genetics Conference in Washington, DC.
The project started in 2005 and is funded with $32 million from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, and the US Department of Energy.
Led by Richard Wilson, director of the Washington University Genome Sequencing Center, the team includes scientists from the University of Arizona, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Iowa State University.
The group sequenced the B73 line of corn, developed at Iowa State, which has high grain yields and has been used in commercial corn breeding and in research laboratories. The draft covers about 95 percent of the 2-gigabase corn genome. Corn has about 50,000 to 60,000 genes, and 80 percent of its DNA is in repeats. The scientists plan to finalize the sequence over the next few years.
The researchers have deposited the sequence data in GenBank, and made it available at a website.

NHGRI, NIMH to Back Genomics Science Centers with up to $2M per Year
The National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health will fund a number of genomics centers that will support interdisciplinary research into genome-wide studies, computational biology, and other areas.
As part of its ongoing Centers of Excellence in Genomics Science program, which started in 2001, NHGRI and NIMH plan to support researchers with up to $2 million a year for research and up to $500,000 over five years for equipment purchases.
In an announcement on last week, NIH said that a CEGS will “address a critical issue in genomic science, proposing a solution that would be a very substantial advance.” Thus, “the research conducted at these centers will entail substantial risk, balanced by outstanding scientific and management plans and very high potential payoff,” NIH said.
The funding will be administered through a P50 Center grant program. NIH anticipates that it will fund approximately 10 centers at a time. Applicants may seek up to five years of support, and the total funding duration for any center will not exceed ten years.
Letters of intent are due by April 25, and applications are due May 25. More information can be found here.

NCI Funds Comparative Genetics Research
The National Cancer Institute said last week that it will award up to $15 million over five years to projects that will use comparative genetics to study cancer.
The NCI will grant up to $3 million per year over the next five years to fund between four and six programs that will study humans and one other species in collaborations involving human genetics, molecular epidemiology, statistical genetics, model organism genetics, systems biology, mathematical or computational modeling, and bioinformatics.
Applicants may request as much as $375,000 annually for up to five years. Letters of intent are due April 14, 2008, and applications are due May 14, 2008.
More information about the NCI grant program can be found here.

Washington State, University of Washington Lead Efforts to Sequence Rosaceae DNA
Researchers from Washington State University and the University of Washington in St. Louis are spearheading an international effort to sequence the genomes of fruit in the Rosaceae family.
WSU’s Agricultural Research Center is providing seed funding for the project, which specifically aims to produce a draft genome sequence of the apple. Other tree fruits in the Rosaceae family include cherries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, roses, and nuts.
WSU currently houses the international databank for the Rosaceae family.
The lab of Roger Bumgarner, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Washington, will carry out the sequencing. His lab recently began using 454’s sequencing technology.
Researchers from both universities are in the process of finalizing a consortium of partners from Italy, France, New Zealand, and South Africa. The project is also receiving support from the Washington Tree Fruit Commission.

Population Genetics Technologies Raises $5.9M in Venture Capital
Population Genetics Technologies has raised £3.8 million ($5.9 million) in a Series A round of venture capital funding, the company said last week.
The round included investments from Auriga Partners, Noble Fund Managers, and Compass Genetics Investors.
Founded by Sydney Brenner, Sam Eletr, and Philop Goelet in 2005 with £1.1 million ($2.2 million) in seed funding from the Wellcome Trust Technology Transfer Division, Cambridge, UK-based PGT aims to develop and market new technologies for population studies.
PGT licensed the intellectual property and related patent applications underlying the technology from Compass Genetics, a partnership formed several years ago by Brenner, Eletr, and Goelet.
Eletr said that the company's large-scale population genetics method “if successful, will be a huge leap forward, as it is expected to reduce significantly the cost of using any sequencing technology, however efficient, that can analyze only one genome at a time.”
The firm said its technology could “enable users to discover shared gene variants characteristic of a particular disorder or a specific response to drugs without the need to sequence separately every individual genome in a particular population.”

SGI Develops Computational Platform for Malaysian Genome Institute
SGI said last week that it has deployed a computational solution for the Malaysian Genome Institute’s research programs.
MGI is a network-based organization focused on tropical bioresources and uses genome sequencing, comparative and functional genomics, and structural biology.
SGI said it worked with Quantum Beez Sdn Bhd, which formerly was called Open Source Systems, to design and develop the hybrid system for MGI.
The computational system SGI developed included its BioCluster, Altix shared memory server, and InfiniteStorage CXFS SAN shared-file system.
MGI currently is running the Microbial Genomics Research for Gene and Natural Product Discovery project, which will use the SGI system to study the genomes of a regional soil pathogen and an avian protozoan.

The Scan

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.

Gut Microbiomes Allow Bears to Grow to Similar Sizes Despite Differing Diets

Researchers in Scientific Reports find that the makeup of brown bears' gut microbiomes allows them to reach similar sizes even when feasting on different foods.

Finding Safe Harbor in the Human Genome

In Genome Biology, researchers present a new approach to identify genomic safe harbors where transgenes can be expressed without affecting host cell function.

New Data Point to Nuanced Relationship Between Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Lund University researchers in JAMA Psychiatry uncover overlapping genetic liabilities for major depression and bipolar disorder.