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Sandoz grant to aid genome project

Sandoz Pharma Ltd., an international pharmaceutical company, has announced a gift of $1 million for the production of essential tools to aid in the mapping of the human genome and also to form a research consortium with the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research and the Stanford Human Genome Center.

In this novel arrangement, experts from Sandoz, the Whitehead Institute, Stanford and Research Genetics, Inc. (RGI, a privately held company in Huntsville, AL) will select genes for mapping from the 50,000 to 100,000 genes that contribute to the genetic blueprint for a human being. Sandoz will provide funds to RGI to produce the precise biochemical tools needed to map these genes. Whitehead and Stanford will use the RGI-produced tools in their ongoing gene-mapping efforts, but will receive no direct funds from Sandoz.

"Sandoz's contribution to the international Human Genome Project will clearly accelerate the pace of gene mapping," said Dr. Eric S. Lander, director of the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research. "We are very grateful for their participation. Understanding the complete set of genes spelled out in human DNA will lead to a new era of molecular medicine based on precise knowledge of the origins of human disease."

Dr. Daniel L. Vasella, chief executive officer of Sandoz Pharma Ltd., said, "Sandoz scientists will have the opportunity to benefit from working together with some of the world's leading gene-mapping experts. As a worldwide research-based drug company, Sandoz has a responsibility to accelerate the progress of university-based research, and this consortium provides an excellent opportunity for us to do so." Sandoz is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland.

Researchers at Whitehead and Stanford are employing complementary strategies to create high-resolution maps of the human genome. These strategies involve the use of sequence tagged sites (STSs), the unique landmarks along the genome highway. As with any road map, more landmarks produce a more detailed map.

The location and identity of the STSs are established using a special chemical test called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. RGI will produce the small stretches of DNA building blocks required to perform PCR, as well as the raw materials for another important stepping stone in the genome effort, the radiation hybrid (RH) map.

All of the partners in the consortium have agreed that the public will have unrestricted access, via the Internet, to all scientific information that results from the Sandoz contribution.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 13, 1996.

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