Quicker, cheaper DNA sequencing goal of UH profs with $4.2 million NIH grant

HOUSTON, Aug. 29, 2005 Houston recently got a shot in the arm toward its goal of becoming the next biotech hub in the United States with a $4.2 million NIH grant awarded to VisiGen Biotechnologies, a local company created by University of Houston researchers working on a new process to sequence the human genome.

Awarded by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NHGRI "Near-Term Development for Genome Sequencing" grants are meant to support research to sequence a human-sized genome at a 100-fold lower cost than is currently possible. The initial goal is to lower the cost to of this procedure $100,000, enabling researchers to sequence genomes of potentially thousands of human subjects involved in studies to identify genes that contribute to certain common, yet complex, diseases. A more long-term goal is to cut the whole-genome sequencing cost to $1,000 that would provide for applications in routine medical care, allowing doctors to tailor diagnoses, treatments and preventative measures to in individual's unique genetic profile. Currently, it costs approximately $10 million to sequence three billion base pairs, which is the amount of DNA found in human and other mammalian genomes.

With its roots at UH, VisiGen is one of Houston's leading-edge BioNano Technology companies and holds hope for enabling new platform technologies to revolutionize biomolecular sequencing. VisiGen's research has led to the development of a new technology for direct molecular sensing that is projected to sequence an entire genome the genetic code in a person's DNA in less than 24 hours at a reasonable cost, thereby enabling personalized medicine. This and other developing technologies coming out of this group may soon offer physicians a quicker, more thorough way to assess genetically linked risk factors for such things as diseases and adverse drug reactions.


Contact: Lisa Merkl
University of Houston

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