Mouse mapped

The truth about the mouse comes at a price

 
Published: Thursday 31 May 2001

Eugene W Myers of Celera Genom celera genomics, the private company to map the human genome, has now come up with the map of the common laboratory mouse. The company has decided to sell the genetic information for a price, rather than putting it in the public domain. Eugene W Myers, the company's vice-president for informatics research, announced this at a press conference on May 1 in New Delhi.

The mouse genome is of immense value because the mouse is used by researchers to decode the mechanisms of human diseases as mice can either develop or be bred to develop a large number of these diseases," Craig J Venter, president of Celera, said at a press conference in the us .

The mouse genome will be available only to the subscribers of the company's growing genetic library, which also includes maps of humans and fruit fly genomes. We don't take money from the public, hence are under no obligation to divulge our results gratis, said Myers. Venter had earlier stated that the genetic database is available on the Internet at a price. All the top academic institutions in the world have already signed up for the Celera database. The database is cheaper than any similar products available in the us market, claims Myers. Reports say that pharmaceutical companies will have to pay to the tune of us $15 million to subscribe.

Larry Thompson, spokesperson of the public-funded Human Genome Project ( hgp) , called the decision not to publish the mouse data "troubling". hgp now plans to release its own map of the mouse genome soon for free. S K Brahmachari, director of the Delhi-based Centre for Biochemical Technology, said, "Celera's decision is unethical.

The debate took a dramatic turn when with the hgp officials, especially Eric Lander, director of the Whitehead Institute's Centre for Genome Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, usa , called Celera's shotgun technology "a flop." The technique, claim some experts, does not give thorough results. Celera's declaration of high prices for the genomes, against the backdrop of recent cheap anti- aids drugs controversy, gave rise to a debate on the ethics of selling the maps at high costs to developing countries like India. The high price precludes many from having access to the genome, said Thompson. Myers admitted, "Some centres of research in developing nations may not be able to access the results today. But he defended the company's policy: Eventually the market will drive down prices, that's how technology gains ground today.

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