REPORT: Celera Fly Genome Flawed : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Report: Celera Fly Genome Flawed

By News

April 20, 2000 -- Federal officials have discovered that the fruit fly genomic data, deciphered last month by biotechnology company Celera Genomics, contains pieces of human genetic information within the fly genome, according to today's Los Angeles Times. About 69 pieces of code, or about 150,000 fragments of DNA, were from human genomic data and not from the fruit fly. In other words, of the estimated 180 million building blocks of DNA in the fruit fly genome, 0.1 percent were from human DNA.

The error was uncovered by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, who monitors GenBank, a public Web site that contains the genetic codes of the fly and other creatures. Soon after the mix-up was found, Celera retracted the information from GenBank, the Times said.

The news is the latest controversy in the race to sequence the human genome, the arrangement of genetic information that acts as a blueprint for every person. The privately owned Celera Genomics has been competing with the Human Genome Project, a public consortium of scientists, to become the first with the completed code.

The fruit fly genome was considered an important first step in the sequencing of the human genome. The mix-up is unlikely to cause lasting scientific damage, the Times reported.

The newest development comes after Celera's president, J. Craig Venter, complained to Congress that scientists with the Human Genome Project were taking shortcuts in order to complete the genome first.

"What does it tell me? It tells me that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones," said Richard Wilson, co-director of the Washington University genome sequencing center, in the Times. "If anybody else put out this kind of sequence with this degree of contamination in it, Celera would be all over them and telling [the press] what an awful job whoever produced that sequence had done."

University of California at Berkeley scientist Gerald Rubin, a collaborator with Celera, said the genomic mix-up was "absolutely true and absolutely trivial."

In papers published in Science in March, Venter, Rubin and their co-workers had acknowledged that more than 2 percent of the fruit fly code could not be mapped.

David Lipman, the director of the center that discovered the human genetic sequences and other errors in the fly genome, said Celera is working to fix the problems. "I don't really see this as evidence of careless work," Lipman said.

"I'm overwhelmingly impressed with what they could do in the time period," he added.


-- (, April 20, 2000

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