Hyseq Inc. has signed a licensing agreement giving it exclusive,worldwide rights to what it calls a biochemical "super chip" for high-speed gene sequencing developed by the U.S. Department of Energy'sArgonne National Laboratory.Lewis Gruber, president and CEO of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-basedHyseq, said financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.The technology for the super chip, Gruber said, involves a variation ofsequencing-by-hybridization (SBH), which Hyseq currently uses tosequence genes. Hyseq's SBH technology, he said, sequences genesfaster and cheaper than traditional gel-based sequencing, which is amethod used by Applied Biosystems' ABI automated sequencers andthe multiplex sequencing technology being developed by GenomeTherapeutics Corp., of Waltham, Mass. Applied Biosystems is adivision of Perkin-Elmer Corp., of Norwalk, Conn."SBH currently has a 50-fold advantage over conventionalsequencing," Gruber said, "and this new process, involving the superchip, has a 50-fold advantage over our SBH technology."He said the super chip, a 1-inch-square plate divided into microplateswhere millions of hybridization reactions occur, is capable of decoding100 genes at one time. The technology, which is called Format-3 SBH,won't be ready for use for three or four years."Even with improvements in gel-based sequencing, the chip will makesequencing routine in labs around the world," he said. "People now arestruggling to sequence the human genome once. This will enablepeople in labs to sequence their own human genomes and comparethem to others."To date about 14,000 out of an estimated 100,000 genes have beensequenced, Gruber said. With the current SBH technology, he added,Hyseq expects to sequence 15,000 genes by 1997.SBH uses short, synthesized stretches of DNA as probes to determinethe presence of gene sequences in unknown DNA and an opticalscanner to identify complementary hybrids of probes with target DNA.Computational approaches then assemble the long sequence from listsof the short overlapping sequences found to be contained within it.With Format-3 SBH, the unknown DNA is sequenced on the superchip, boosting speed and capacity, Gruber said.The licensing agreement is being signed today in Chicago with ARCHDevelopment Corp., which is part of the University of Chicago. Theuniversity operates the Argonne National Laboratory for theDepartment of Energy. n

-- Charles Craig

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