HUMAN GENOME MAPPING SHOULD TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER GENE SEQUENCING
HUMAN GENOME MAPPING SHOULD TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER GENE SEQUENCING, Industrial Biotechnology Association President Richard Godown told a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's research and development subcommittee Sept. 17. "First, there is a greater consensus on the scientific value of a genome map plus partial sequence than on a genome map plus complete sequence," Godown said. "Second, sequencing is now done largely by hand and is very expensive." Until automated sequencing technologies are available, Godown pointed out, sequencing could cost as much as $6 bil. -- an estimated 6 bil. bases to be sequenced at $1 per base. In testimony to the subcommittee, J&J Director for Advanced Technology Jack McConnell asserted: "If we want the U.S. to maintain its position as a dominant force in the pharmaceutical industry in the world, I cannot imagine our letting this opportunity pass us by." McConnell cautioned that the "group or institution that first gains access to the information from mapping and sequencing the human genome will be in position to dominate the pharmaceutical and biotech industry for decades to come." The hearing was scheduled to review Sen. Domenici's (R-N.M.) bill to establish and fund federal research efforts in human genome mapping and semiconductors. The bill, the "Department of Energy Laboratory Cooperative Research Initiatives Act," was introduced by Domenici July 10. A companion bill, HR 3006, has been introduced in the House by Rep. Lujan (R-N.M.). The Senate bill also would create centers in academia, Department of Energy Labs, and private industry for superconductivity research, establish Institutes of Entrepreneurial Studies, and allow directors of the Department of Energy (DOE) facilities to "enter into cooperative research development agreements with a [U.S.] firm or industry." White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Deputy Director-designate Thomas Rona, citing the potential of genome mapping in identifying genes implicated in inherited diseases, said the map of the entire genome should be the highest priority among S 1480's three proposed initiatives. Rona also maintained that DOE should be the lead federal agency for the project. The President's fiscal 1988 budget request includes $12 mil. for a DOE genome program. The department currently supports genome activities at Los Alamos and Livermore National Libraries and funds the National Gene Library Project. National Institutes of Health Director James Wyngaarden noted that the recently-passed House Health and Human Services FY 1988 appropriations measure would allow $30 mil. for mapping activities, and that a bill, HR 393, introduced by Rep. Pepper (D-Fla.) also provides monies for the effort. NIH currently supports 3,000 grants for genome-related activities.
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