- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2000

PE Corp.'s Celera Genomics said yesterday it has mapped 2.4 million pieces of human gene variations and collected them in a database that likely will help scientists discover causes and cures for disease.

Celera also has gained one more client for another of its databases, that of the human genome, the company announced during the 12th International Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference.

The Rockville, Md.-based company finished the genetic map in June and announced its completion along with the Human Genome Project, an international consortium that was racing Celera to map the human genome. Since then, the company has focused on translating bits of genes into different variations.

Celera now has several major clients for its gene database, including Pfizer Inc., American Home Products Corp., Pharmacia Corp., Novartis AG and Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., Immenux Corp. and six university medical schools.

These subscribers get the human genetic map and those of the mouse and the fruit fly as well as access to Celera's powerful bank of computers to analyze the data. Most of these companies have signed up for the new database as well, hoping to use the alterations of genes to identify what causes illnesses and find cures.

Celera President J. Craig Venter started the annual genome sequencing conference in 1988. He now co-organizes the annual event with the Institute for Genome Research, a nonprofit genomic research organization in Rockville.

The two-day meeting for companies studying human genetic makeup, or human genome, wraps up in Miami today. Nearly 1,000 scientists from around the world are attending.

"It's one of the premier meetings where scientist from around the world come to talk about genomics," said Heather Kowalski, a spokeswoman for Celera. "It's an important meeting."

Among those attending the conference is Gaithersburg-based Gene Logic Inc. Its scientists presented a company-patented technology that enables researchers to read gene expression levels from tissues of known and unknown genes.

Large pharmaceutical and biotech players have signed up with Gene Logic to use this technology, including Pfizer, American Home Products and Rockville-based Psychiatric Genomics a company that researches genetic expression related to mental illness.

"We have a small poster presentation at the conference," said Robert Burrows, a Gene Logic spokesman. "A lot of companies get senior management to present and that's wonderful.

"It really is an important meeting to be present at," he added. "And next year we'll hopefully be there too in more detail, in length to describe the success of our technology."

Another big local genomics company, Human Genome Sciences Inc., is not a presenter at the conference. However, the company sent three scientists to hear about issues affecting the industry.

Shares of Celera rose $1.50 yesterday to close at $100.25 on the New York Stock Exchange. Gene Logic rose 25 cents and Human Genome Sciences $9.06 to close at $23.88 and $161.38, respectively, on Nasdaq.

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