By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

Applera Corp. will spend $75 million over the next year commercializing products based on the human genome.

The work will be conducted by Applera¿s three companies: Celera Genomics Group, the Rockville, Md.-based company credited with sequencing the human genome; Applied Biosystems Group, of Foster City, Calif.; and Alameda, Calif.-based Celera Diagnostics, a joint venture of Applied Biosystems and Celera.

In a telephone conference call Tuesday, Toni White, CEO of Norwalk, Conn.-based Applera, said the first products resulting from this research are expected to be available this fiscal year.

¿We are moving into the next phase of our multiyear genomics strategy,¿ White said. ¿The program is designed to leverage the combined commercial expertise of Applera businesses to discover variations called SNPs [single nucleotide polymorphisms] in genes and regulatory regions, to identify disease-related gene associations, to monitor how genes are expressed and to develop and market products based on those discoveries.¿

White said when Celera began sequencing the human genome some three years ago, ¿people questioned the value of the project and the expenditure. Since we first envisioned the project, we have consistently believed that the value of the genome lies in the interpretation of the information. Today, with industrial-scale discovery and bioinformatics capabilities, we are opening new routes to commercialization.¿

Applera¿s goal is to transform the genomic information discovered in the Human Genome Project into novel therapeutic and diagnostic products.

Each of the businesses will focus on a different aspect of research.

Celera expects to spend the next year resequencing the genes and regulatory regions in the DNA from 40 to 50 people whose DNA is being studied to show SNPs and associated haplotypes with health-related implications.

Craig Venter, Celera¿s president and chief scientific officer, said during the conference call that Celera will use the information discovered in the project in its internal drug discovery efforts to improve predictive efficacy and toxicity of drug candidates and as a basis for collaborations with pharmaceutical partners.

Applied Biosystems will use data generated by the discovery program to build large sets of validated assays for use by the research community in studying gene expression and genetic variation. Applied Biosystems expects to develop validated assay sets based on reagents used with the Applied Biosystems Sequence Detection Systems platform, which are expected to allow researchers to make new discoveries across the entire genome, said Mike Hunkapiller, Applied Biosystems¿ president.

And Celera Diagnostics will establish an industrial-scale facility for high-volume genotyping and gene expression studies. The facility will be used for large-scale disease-association studies aimed at identifying new diagnostic markers and to support Celera¿s therapeutic target discovery program.

The company expects the facility to produce millions of genotypes daily in large studies of thousands of clinical samples, and the facility is expected to be capable of analyzing thousands of genes per day to compare expression differences in samples from healthy and diseased populations, Kathy Ordonez, vice president of Celera Diagnostics, said during the conference call.

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