- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

Celera Genomics, the Rockville company that last year mapped out the 3.1 billion letters composing the human genetic makeup, will use its know-how to help the government identify the recovered remains from the World Trade Center rubble.

"We certainly have a large capacity of sequences here, and we have expertise in DNA sequencing," says Heather Kowalski, spokeswoman for Celera.

The details of how Celera will be involved in the identification process are still being worked out. The biotechnology company first has to become certified as a forensic lab, which is expected to happen in the next several days, says Miss Kowalski.

The Medical Examiner's Office in New York City has said it will also be working with Applied Biosystems Group, Celera's sister company, and Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City. None of the companies expects compensation.

"This is not a financially driven move. This is helping out in the time of need," says Jonathan Aschoff, an analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey, who tracks the biotech industry. "This is good press."

The identification process employs the same tools developed by Applied Biosystems that Celera used last year to map out the human genetic makeup.

At least 50,000 DNA samples everything from hair locks to pieces of skin are being collected from the site in lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center towers once stood. Federal investigators have already processed all the samples from the Pentagon attack site in Arlington.

New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch said last Monday that one of the hardest parts of dealing with last week's tragedy would be to properly identify the victims' bodies.

"DNA evidence offers us the best opportunity to help families find their loved ones," Mr. Giuliani said. "I strongly urge everyone who is missing a relative to participate in this process."

Tissue samples from New York are being separated into three parts: One will go to Celera, another to Myriad, and a third will be stored by a medical examiner.

Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, based in Burlington, N.C., is also pitching in with the identification effort. The company said it would make hundreds of its clinical centers available to researchers to help collect DNA samples from the victims of last week's terrorist attack.

Biotech analysts hailed Celera for volunteering its DNA-sequencing expertise to the victim-identification efforts.

"Considering they didn't even put out a press release, they are actually just humbly helping out," said a biotech analyst who asked to remain anonymous.

Celera's stock closed Friday at $20.50, up 44 cents from the previous day on the New York Stock Exchange.

Celera's biggest current project is finalizing the genome map of a mouse.

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