Jueves 11 de Abril de 2002, Ip nš 12

Genome map on a grain of rice
Por Kristen Philipkoski

One of the world's largest biotech companies will publish an extensive analysis of the rice genome, touted by researchers to have the potential to put a dent in world hunger.

Researchers at Syngenta SYT, a Swiss biotech company, said it will make its rice genome data available for free to academic researchers, and available for a fee to corporate scientists.

"This is a balance between humanitarian goals and commercial goals," said Steven Briggs, president of Syngenta's Torrey Mesa Research Institute, in San Diego, California.

Researchers want to map the rice genome because it serves as a model organism for all species of "cereal grasses," such as wheat, barley, rye and oats. By analyzing the specific genes in rice, scientists will also have basic knowledge about the genomes of these crops.

Agricultural scientists also want to know the details of the rice genome to make rice plant breeding more accurate. By pinpointing the function of a specific rice gene, researchers say they can use genomic technologies to add vitamins to rice (like Golden Rice, which contains Vitamin A).

Syngenta is a year and a half behind a competitor, Monsanto MON, where executives have already granted public access to its rice research.

"By making this information available in the public domain, we are making a major step in the right direction," said Per Pinstrup-Andersen, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute.

The same public-versus-private access issues existed with the human genome, which was mapped by a publicly funded group of researchers as well as a private company, Celera.

Pinstrup-Andersen said Syngenta would face bad publicity if the company refused to release the data in Genbank.

This rice genome map is a draft. The company expects to have a final version in about 18 months.

Syngenta's analysis will be published in the April 5 issue of the journal Science, after which researchers will be able to retrieve the data using the TMRI website, or by ordering a CD-ROM from the company. Details of the study are under embargo by the journal until April 4.

An effort to map the entire rice genome has been ongoing under the umbrella of the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project which is administered by researchers funded by the Japanese government, and includes various non-profit organizations including The Institute for Genomic Research, Clemson University, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

  29/03/2002. Wired Magazine.