Press Release

TIGR Awarded Grant to Sequence Deadly Fungal Disease

April 25, 2001

ROCKVILLE, MD -- The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) announced today it has received funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to implement a large scale sequencing project of Cryptococcus neoformans.

C. neoformans is the etiologic agent of cryptococcosis, one of the most serious global fungal diseases and one of the most common pathogens isolated from the central nervous system in the world today. Life-threatening infections caused by Cryptococcus neoformans have increased over the last two decades as immunocompromised populations also increase, resulting in an explosion of cases of cryptococcosis in all areas of the world. As a result, the economic impact of C. neoformans on health care systems is overwhelming. For example, there is presently no cure for AIDS, which destroys patients' ability to combat infections, so costly life-long anti-fungal prophylaxis or maintenance therapy (once infected) is required for these patients. Because of prolonged maintenance therapies with anti-fungal drugs, isolations of drug resistant strains of cryptococcosis have been increasing.  

Under the direction of Dr. Claire M. Fraser, president of TIGR and principal investigator on this project and Dr. Brendan J. Loftus, co-principal investigator, the NIAID grant award will enable researchers at TIGR to begin building upon the ongoing efforts of Dr. Ronald W. Davis, professor of biochemistry and director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center (SGTC) Stanford University, and Dr. Richard Hyman, senior research associate at SGTC. As such, TIGR will provide 4-5X sequence coverage of the C. neoformans genome to generate an additional 4X sequence coverage, assemble all of the C. neoformans sequence data generated at Stanford and TIGR, and complete gap closure on as much of the C. neoformans genome as possible. TIGR will then use a variety of computer methods to identify all open reading frames (ORFs) in the C. neoformans genome sequence and identify as many ORFs as possible to proteins of known function. 

Once complete, C. neoformans will be the first basidiomycetes genome whose sequenced data will be publicly available. This is especially important since C. neoformans is phylogenetically at the junction between some of the most destructive plant pathogens (such as smuts or rusts), and economically important food sources (mushrooms) within the basidiomycota, which means the sequenced data of C. neoformans will be far-reaching with interest ranging from the medical community to the agricultural industry.


Open reading Frames (ORF) — The amino acid coding portion of a gene or potential gene.

Phylogenetics - The field of biology, which involves identifying and understanding the relationships between different kinds of life on earth.

Basidiomycetes - The basidiomycetes group of fungi includes edible mushrooms such as chanterelles and boletes.