In the race to identify the human genome's approximately 100,000genes, Human Genome Sciences Inc. said Tuesday it had sequencedas much as 90 percent of them.

Human Genome Sciences, of Rockville, Md., and IncytePharmaceuticals Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., are considered the leadingcompetitors in the race.

Human Genome Sciences Chairman and CEO William Haseltine saidhis company had reached 500,000 partial gene sequences,representing about 70,000 to 90,000 genes.

Randy Scott, Incyte's vice president of research and development,said his company has generated several hundred thousand sequences,representing about 50,000 genes.

Gene sequences, or expressed sequenced tags, are part of the earlieststage of genomics research. Considerable additional work must bedone to identify the genes, understand their functions and determinewhat changes cause disease.

Other companies and research institutions also are sequencing genes.As of mid-April an estimated 125,500 gene sequences, representingan estimated 13,000 genes, were contributed to public data basesmaintained by a global network comprised of GenBank at theNational Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., the EuropeanBioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, England, and the DNA DataBase in Japan.

The public data bases got a boost this year when Merck & Co., ofWhitehouse Station, N.J., and its collaborator, WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis, started feeding gene sequences directly intothe public data bases. Merck has estimated it will generate about400,000 sequences over the next 18 months. _ Charles Craig

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