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Whitehead Receives $7 million NIH Grant To Build High-Speed Sequencing Machines

The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research has received a three-year, $7 million grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute to develop chip- based genome sequencing machines that can sequence 7 million DNA letters per day, or 2 billion letters per year. Once these machines are up and running, it would be possible to use as few as 20 machines to sequence an entire mammalian genome in one year, according to Whitehead scientists.

Slated for introduction into NIH genome laboratories in three years, these machines will accelerate the U.S. Human Genome Project's efforts to sequence the entire 3 billion DNA letters that make up a human being by year 2003. They also will reduce the cost of the capital equipment for future facilities by a factor of ten. Scientists anticipate that the need for cost-effective DNA sequencing machines will continue to increase in the new millennium as applications of the Genome Project extend into biomedicine.

The proposed sequencing machines will incorporate a microfabricated "chip" device that miniaturizes the process of electrophoresis, the method currently used to read DNA landmarks. The device can sequence DNA at 10 times the speed of existing commercial technology, and it is completely automated, eliminating the need for tedious labor. The machines will be 10 to 20 times more productive than the systems announced by Perkin Elmer and Celera corporation. In addition, the Whitehead Institute machines will be geared to read significantly longer stretches of DNA--crucial to reduce the time it takes to piece together overlapping fragments.

"This project is a collaborative effort between the Whitehead Institute BioMEMS Engineering Group, and the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research," says Dr. Paul Matsudaira, Member of the Whitehead Institute. "Our goal is to create, on a rapid timetable, a transferable technology that can substantially accelerate the efforts of NIH Genome Centers to sequence the h
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Contact: Seema Kumar or Eve Nichols
kumar@wi.mit.edu or nichols@wi.mit.edu
617-258-5183
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
12-Mar-1999


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