办事指南

Vive la difference

点击量:   时间:2019-03-08 08:19:19

By Matt Walker THE era of personalised medicine, when patients will be prescribed drugs tailored to their precise genetic make-up, has come a step closer. This week, 10 major drugs companies and the Wellcome Trust, the world’s largest medical charity, are unveiling a plan to map the variability of the human genome within two years. The data will immediately be made public to head off attempts by other companies to patent the information for their own gain. The $45-million project will identify and analyse single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These are variations in single DNA bases, which account for most of the genetic differences between people. SNPs are thought to be a major determinant of people’s susceptibility to disease and their response to drugs. The ongoing Human Genome Project, which aims to have a working draft of our entire genetic blueprint by February next year, will produce a “consensus” sequence for the typical human. But David Bentley, head of genetics at the Wellcome Trust’s Sanger Centre near Cambridge, argues that individual variation is even more important. Up to a tenth of the three million SNPs thought to exist will be mapped by the new consortium. “It will be a representative map,” says Arthur Holden, former head of British biotechnology company Celsis. Holden will be chief executive and chairman of the consortium. The Wellcome Trust is providing $14 million for the project. The rest will be made up from equal contributions by the 10 companies: AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hoffman-La Roche, Glaxo Wellcome, Hoechst Marion Roussel, Novartis, Pfizer, Searle and SmithKline Beecham. Holden hopes to convince other companies to join the consortium. An original proposal for an SNP map from the British pharmaceuticals giant Glaxo Wellcome evolved into a consortium when the companies agreed that they would make more rapid progress by first collaborating on identifying SNPs and then competing on efforts to make drugs using the information. “To my knowledge something like this has never been done before,” says Allen Roses, head of genetics at Glaxo Wellcome. The Sanger Centre, the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will be responsible for identifying SNPs. Those that look as if they might be medically important will then be mapped by the Human Genome Center at Stanford University in California and the Sanger Centre. Finally, the information will be analysed and built into an overall genome map by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York. By making the information freely available, the consortium hopes to prevent other companies from patenting key SNPs. But it could find itself in a race against firms that have decided to go it alone. Genset, based in Paris and San Diego, says it intends to build its own SNP database and file patents. Celera Genomics of Rockville, Maryland, is also investing heavily in SNPs. However, the consortium has already made a start. The Sanger Centre has completed a three-month pilot project which mapped SNPs on chromosome 22. “There are lots of SNPs already in the bank,