Collaborative Research Inc. on Monday said it has received a $5million, three-year grant from the National Center for HumanGenome Research to test large-scale sequencing technology onthe DNA of Mycobacteria.

The goal of the project is to test computer-assisted multiplexsequencing on large stretches of DNA. If successful, Bedford,Mass.-based CRI said it hopes the technology will halve thecost of DNA sequencing.

"The fantasy a few years ago was a cost of $1 per base pair,"said Orrie Friedman, the company's founder, chairman and chiefexecutive officer. "The target for this technology is 50 centsper base pair."

Originally developed by Dr. George Church and his associates atthe Harvard Medical School, multiplex sequencing allows aresearcher to read the results of multiple sequencing runsfrom a single electrophoresis gel. This greatly reduces thenumber of gels needed to sequence large amounts of DNA. Gelsare then read automatically by computerized scanners. Churchis one of several researchers who will collaborate on theproject.

Sequencing the Mycobacteria genomes will allow CRI to targeta medically important organism. Mycobacteria cause diseasessuch as leprosy and tuberculosis, which combined cause moredeaths worldwide than any other bacterial disease. M. lepraeaffects about 10 million to 12 million people, mainly in Asiaand Africa. M. tuberculosis infects 1.7 billion peopleworldwide.

Mycobacteria contain about 4 million base pairs in their DNA.The largest genome sequenced to date is that of thecytomegalovirus, which contains about 250,000 base pairs.

CRI stock (NASDAQ:CRIC) closed up 13 cents on Monday at$1.25.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

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