The Institut Pasteur, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA), Hybrigenics and Genome Express announced the establishment of the Geno* (Genostar) bioinformatics consortium to design and develop a modular software platform for exploratory genomics.
Genomics yield large amounts of complex data of various types (sequences, gene localization and expression, proteins, ). The exploitation of this information which ultimately leads to the analysis of gene function, requires tools to represent, crosscheck, organize and compare these data.
In this context, the Geno* consortium was created to design and develop informatics systems that will allow to describe and analyze genes, proteins and the relationship between them. Several specialized applications, integrated within the system, will allow to define analysis strategies et will constitute tools for the characterization of gene function, and identification of new pharmaceutical targets.
Geno* will be able to handle a large numbers of information of different types, and will go beyond most of bioinformatics environments actually available, which are mostly only dedicated to gene identification. Geno* tools will allow to place biological information into the global cell context, and to identify crucial information for fundamental research and also for pharmaceutical industry (drug discovery) and agro-business (identification of more resistant and more productive plant varieties).
Biological expertise, especially in the field of microbial organisms, and state-of-the-art software technologies on which the Geno* platform is built will combine ease of use with a level of adaptability unprecedented on the emerging market for integrated bioinformatics frameworks. Designed from the outset to take advantage of the most recent high-throughput data sources (DNA chip technology, proteomics ), it will provide an ideal environment to design and experiment with new post-genomic analysis techniques.
The platform architecture will allow easy integration of new types of data and analysis techniques and third-party applications.
The consortium will market products resulting from its development effort to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. A privileged access to a basic version of the platform will be available to academic laboratories for internal research purposes.
About GENOME express
GENOME express has been developing its expertise in genomic analysis for 5 years, and is now offering a full range of products and services including DNA library manufacturing, cloning, subcloning, DNA sequencing, genotyping, DNA synthesis, protein purification and SNP detection. Bioinformatics and monitoring of differential gene expression will be added to its product line in the very near future.
In March 1999, the venture capital company 3i invested in GENOME express, enabling the company to strengthen its technical platform and increase the volume of its production platform. These improvements allow clients to outsource part of a project or a complete project. French academic laboratories, international pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies have already chosen the outsource alternative.
Soon GENOME express will open its ownership to another round of investment capital. With this new capital injection, GENOME express will continue to strengthen its market share position, and develop new approaches focused on pharmaceutical and agro-food thematics.
Hybrigenics is a biotechnology company specialized in functional proteomics applied to discovery of novel lead compounds in the fields of therapeutics, cosmetics and agriculture.
From automated screening biological methods and proprietary bioinformatics tools, the company builds protein interaction maps (PIMs®). The graphical interactive interface of these maps displays proteins in their respective pathways and give them a function in the cell, thus enabling to discover new targets. The first programs developed by Hybrigenics have been validation of novel targets and lead compounds in the fields of infectious diseases and cancer.
Founded in 1997, Hybrigenics was funded for FF66 million by Apax, Partners & Cie (France), Auriga (France), IMH (Germany) and HealthCap (Sweden).
The National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control is
an institute for fundamental and applied research, involved in all areas
where information and communication science and technology (ICST) are concerned.
INRIA has five research sites situated at Rocquencourt, Rennes, Sophia Antipolis, Grenoble and Nancy (France) and employs around 2,100 persons of whom 1,300 are research scientists either at INRIA or in connection to the Institute.
INRIA plays a determining role in four areas of research: networks and systems; software engineering and symbolic computation; man-machine interaction, imaging, data, knowledge; simulation and optimization of complex systems.
INRIA develops numerous partnerships with industry and encourages technology transfer and company creation (40) in the field of ICST, notably through its INRIA-Transfert subsidiary. INRIA-Transfert is the instigator of the I-Source Gestion start-up fund. Together with MIT for America and the University of Keio for Asia, INRIA leads the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in Europe. The W3C is in charge of developing common protocols for the evolution of the World Wide Web. The W3C is currently chaired by an INRIA Research Director.
Facilitated by the biotechnologies and informatics progresses, genomics aims at setting a list of all the genes of an organism (genome), and then to study the function of these genes and their interactions. The first step consists in getting the whole genetics patrimony of the organism : its genomic sequence. But the global sequencing of the genome is not the end . The function of thousands of sequenced genes has to be characterized. The process of obtaining such functions is called the functional genomics.
Several teams at the Institut Pasteur specialized in the study of model or pathogenic organisms are committed in completely sequencing these organisms genomes and exploring structure and gene function in a large scale. Since September 1999, the Institut Pasteur is part of the national network of genopoles started by the French Ministry of Research and Technology.
Since the 80s', several scientists of the Institut Pasteur have begun the sequencing of viral genomes, providing the first complete genomes sequences of a human papillomavirus (1981), of HIV 1 (1985), and of the rabies virus (1988).
In the 90s', the Institut Pasteur played a major role in sequencing genomes of two model organisms (yeast -Saccharomyces cerevisiae- and the bacterium -Bacillus subtilis-) and of the pathogen reponsible for tuberculosis : Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Several teams are currently engaged in the sequencing of some fiften organisms of scientific, medical or biotechnological interest (4 strains of the dengue virus, West-Nile virus, Mycoplasma pulmonis, Listeria monocytogenes, Listeria innocua, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Mycobacterium leprae, Mycobacterium bovis, Mycobacterium bovis BCG, Photorhabdus luminescens, yeasts, Aspergillus fumigatus, Dictyostelium discoideum, Anopheles gambiae).
The creation in February 1998 at the Institut Pasteur of the Pathogenic Microorganisms Genomics Laboratory, equipped for large scale sequencing contributed to the development of these projects. Some of them are also being developed in collaboration with different institutions in France (Génoscope, Evry), or abroad.
Beyond sequencing, studies oriented on systematic functional analysis of several genomes are currently being developed at the Institut Pasteur (Helicobacter pylori, Bacillus subtilis, Yersinia pestis, Mycobacterium leprae, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, Mycobacterium bovis BCG, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Candida albicans, Aspergillus fumigatus).
This enormous task of exploration and analysis of the data obtained by sequencing could not be done without designing sophisticated biotechnological and informatics tools. Some of these platforms were built by teams from the Institut Pasteur
Post-genomics (proteomics) is now also being developed at the Institut
Pasteur. A start-up company, Hybrigenics, that took off in 1998, from a
technology initialy developed by a team at the Institut Pasteur (whole genome
study of protein-protein interaction network) applies this technology to
Nowadays, sequencing and post sequencing projects are numerous at the Institut Pasteur laboratories. In parallel with the study of complete genomes, numerous teams are developing partial genomic approaches -on microorganisms, mouse or human. In all disciplines, from virology to human genetics, from developmental biology to immunology, in applied or fundamental research, a growing number of scientists at the Institut Pasteur are utilizing and building genomics strategies, data and tools.
The development of this large scale biology is meant to greatly accelerate knowledge progress and to discover more efficient diagnostics methods, to identify novel therapeutic targets and new vaccines.
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