Press Release

TIGR, IBEA, and TCAG to Create New High-Throughput Genomic Sequencing Facility

Center will be test bed for latest DNA sequencing and computing technology

Human sequencing to be conducted to better understand genetic variation

August 15, 2002

ROCKVILLE, MD--August 15, 2002--The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA) and The Center for the Advancement of Genomics (TCAG), all not-for-profit organizations supported by the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation, announced today their plan to create a next generation, high-throughput DNA sequencing facility in Rockville, Maryland.

The sequencing of the first two genomes of free-living organisms in 1995 at TIGR paved the way for the completion of numerous genomes. To date two plants, yeast, worm, human, mouse, fruit fly, and various environmental microbes and human pathogens have been sequenced. Researchers in academia and commercial companies are utilizing these data to better understand human disease and formulate new and better treatments, help increase the yield, pest-resistance, and nutritional value of crops, as well as begin to answer fundamental questions about human evolution. However, with more than a million species and more than 6 billion people on the planet, the realm of sequencable species and individuals has not yet been adequately covered. While the cost to sequence a species has rapidly declined from billions to millions of dollars, there is still a need to substantially reduce these costs so that everyone can benefit from the great promise that genomics holds.

To address these issues, TIGR, TCAG and IBEA are building a facility to rapidly and accurately sequence and analyze genomes in a more cost-effective manner. The approximately 40,000 square foot facility will utilize the latest in automated DNA sequencing, supercomputing, networking, and high performance storage technologies. The center will also house a research and development laboratory that will explore advanced technologies from a variety of vendors, such as the GeneEngine platform from U.S. Genomics, a Woburn, Massachusetts company.

"Our goal is to build a new and unique sequencing facility that can deal with the large number of organisms to be sequenced, and can further analyze those genomes already completed," said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., president, TCAG, IBEA, Venter Science Foundation. "The sequencing of the human genome was a key step in what will be a long yet intellectually fruitful journey of basic science discovery. The evolution of sequencing has advanced greatly in the last decade. My teams at TIGR and later at Celera took large-scale sequencing to new heights, and the new center will be the latest in the evolution of these facilities." Claire M. Fraser, Ph.D., president and director of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), said the new sequencing capacity would allow TIGR to expand and speed the pace of its research on a wide array of projects. That research has the potential to treat diseases, alleviate pollution, deepen our understanding of many organisms, and heighten the defense against possible bioterrorism.

"The key to TIGR's success--from its landmark sequencing of the first free-living organism in 1995 to its recent genomic fingerprinting of the microbe that causes anthrax-- is using the best sequencing and computing technology to push the envelope of genomic research," said Fraser. "This new facility will allow TIGR to greatly expand its sequencing capacity and give our scientists the tools to tackle large genomes more rapidly and at a lower cost. That gives a boost to a wide range of TIGR research projects that have the potential to help people across the globe."

TIGR's sequencing lab, which has approximately 40 genome projects currently underway, will continue its current operations until the new joint sequencing facility comes on line. At that point, Fraser said, the current TIGR sequencing facility will undergo a metamorphosis to add a state-of-the-art capability to genome closure (filling all the gaps in sequenced genomes) -- with a capacity for both sequencing and closure that is much greater than TIGR's current throughput.

Other immediate research projects slated for the new center include: continuation of the biological energy research already underway at IBEA. Researchers at TIGR and IBEA are simultaneously looking for new organisms and analyzing known organisms that metabolize carbon or create hydrogen. These efforts could one day lead to cleaner energy alternatives through the creation of biological fuel cells. TIGR is currently conducting whole genome shotgun sequencing of microbial communities to better characterize and understand entire ecosystems. IBEA will be collaborating on these projects when the new center is open. TCAG, a policy center dedicated to social and ethical implications of genomics, will also benefit from the new sequencing facility in that work from human sequencing will be used to better understand ethno-geographic differences among populations.

"As we continue to explore the implications of individual genetic sequences this information needs to rapidly become an integral part of medical care and preventive medicine. One of our goals in building this facility is to make genomic sequencing of the six billion people on this planet technologically feasible so that everyone can benefit and be empowered by this information," said Dr. Venter.

About TIGR

The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) is a not-for-profit research institute based in Rockville, Maryland. TIGR, which sequenced the first complete genome of a free-living organism in 1995, has been at the forefront of the genomic revolution since it was founded by J. Craig Venter in 1992. TIGR conducts research involving the structural, functional, and comparative analysis of genomes and gene products in viruses, bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes--higher animals and plants. TIGR is a 501 (c) (3) organization.

About TCAG

The Center for the Advancement of Genomics (TCAG) is a not-for-profit policy center dedicated to advancing science through education and enlightenment of the general public, elected officials, and students. TCAG will seek to better understand evolutionary issues, broad social and ethical issues such as race as a social concept rather than a scientific one, and combating genetic discrimination. TCAG will also focus on the public issues associated with biology/genomics in mitigating greenhouse gas concentrations and biological energy production. TCAG is a 501 (c) (3) organization.

About IBEA

Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA) is a research-based institution dedicated to exploring solutions for carbon sequestration using microbes, microbial pathways, and plants. For example, genomics could be applied to enhance the ability of terrestrial and oceanic microbial communities to remove carbon from the atmosphere. IBEA will develop and use microbial pathways and microbial metabolism to produce fuels with higher energy content in an environmentally sound fashion. IBEA will undertake genome engineering to better understand the evolution of cellular life and how these cell components function together in a living system. IBEA is in the process of applying for 501 (c) (3) status.

About J. Craig Venter Science Foundation

J. Craig Venter Science Foundation is the support organization for TIGR, TCAG, and IBEA. The Foundation provides administrative support and will coordinate policy and research activities between the three organizations. The JCVSF is in the process of applying for 501 (c) (3) status.


Robert Koenig (TIGR)
Manager of Public Affairs, TIGR
(301) 838-5880

Heather Kowalski
Kowalski Communications