Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Perkin-Elmer Corp. have signed a $6.8 million cooperative researchand development agreement (CRADA) for development ofanalytical instrumentation to accelerate DNA sequencing.

LLNL announced Monday that Perkin-Elmer's AppliedBiosystems Division will provide $3.8 million in cash and$964,000 in equipment, and the Department of Energy, whichfunds LLNL, will contribute $2 million (30 percent of expenses),for the project.

LLNL said its immediate goal is to increase sequencing rates10-fold over the next two years and 100-fold in the longerterm. With existing technology, 1,250 base pairs of DNA can besequenced per hour, said LLNL. At this rate it would take 1,500years to complete the Human Genome Project of mapping andsequencing the 3 billion base pairs of DNA comprising thehuman genome.

"Future technology is expected to deliver sequencing rates ofmore than 100,000 base pairs per hour," said LLNL, enablingresearchers to complete the project within 10 years.

LLNL of Livermore, Calif., is one of approximately 20coordinated centers participating in the genome project. Itbrings in-depth microfabrication expertise to the researcheffort, while Perkin-Elmer provides patented sequencingtechniques.

Sequencing breaks strings of nucleic acids comprising DNA intopieces and analyzes the order of subunits along the DNA chain,LLNL explained. "For analysis, DNA fragments are separated bysize in a process known as gel electrophoresis. An electriccurrent drags the fragments through a thin, gelatin-likesubstance" that acts like a sieve, slowing the progress of largerfragments and creating a distribution of fragments from largeto small."

LLNL has initiated more than 100 CRADAs since 1992, and theagreement with Perkin-Elmer is the largest cash contributionby an industrial partner, LLNL said. It is also the first CRADAconcerning DNA sequencing.

-- Brenda Sandburg News Editor

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