Hitachi Chemical has formed Advanced Gene ComputingTechnologies (AGCT), a wholly owned subsidiary to develop andmarket user-defined oligonucleotides for commercial andresearch purposes.

According to AGCT's director of business development, DennisCoad, the company has patented software technology that canextract potential probe sequences from every location of agiven target gene based on a melting temperature of probesspecified by the researcher.

The program generates a large group of candidate probes basedon the base pairs of the target provided by a researcher, andthen characterizes the potential probes in terms of meltingtemperature, location of mismatched nucleotides, the lengthand content of each nucleotide, and the hairpin energy andstacking energy of each candidate probe. Candidates are alsochecked for cross-hybridization potential.

The OligoProbe DesignStation technology is unique, said Coad, inthat it takes into account the entire homology of a target gene,checking the target against a data base of existing sequences --typically, the GeneBank, which is the collection of sequencedgenes compiled by the Human Genome Project. Researchers canspecify species and other factors, or obtain cross-speciesprobes, which Coad said could be valuable in connectingpreclinical data with human efficacy.

Masato Mitsuhashi will be president and chief executive ofAGCT. The company is already offering its services to severallarge commercial users, said Coad, and is developing severaljoint R&D and licensing agreements, but it is not yet disclosingthe details of these arrangements. Probe design services will beoffered at rates as low as $500, Coad said. -- Karl Thiel

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