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November 5, 1998

SicKKids improves access to global genome database

TORONTO - Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have improved access to an important resource for genetics researchers around the world: a genome database that provides the latest data from human gene mapping activities. SickKids information scientists have launched Canada's only mirror site of the Genome Database (GDB), currently located at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

"The Genome Database (GDB) is an important resource for scientists working in the field of human genetics because it is a central repository of genetic information that can be accessed by researchers anywhere in the world," explains information scientist Dr. Jamie Cuticchia, head of Bioinformatics at SickKids. "By hosting a mirror site for the GDB, The Hospital for Sick Children will not only provide better access to the data for Canadian scientists, but also work with researchers across the country to collect and disseminate their data through the GDB."

GDB is used by thousands of researchers around the world as the definitive source of human mapping information. It contains within it not only map information for all known human genes but also information on probes available for regions of the human genome. These probes are the main tools which are used to map other genes in the regions. Additionally, GDB maintains a list of all known human mutations which have relevance to genetic disease. This can play a critical role in diagnostics.

The Genome Database was created at Johns Hopkins in 1989 by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to capture the data from the Human Gene Mapping Library at Yale University. A series of mirror sites in many countries helped ensure international access to the data. The database is the definitive source of human genetic mapping data collected to date. The data on the site includes information on human genes, probes, clones and allele frequencies.

The annual cost of operating the GDB site at SickKids will be approximately $100,000, and is included in the operation of SickKids's bioinformatics program, which was established last year. The science of bioinformatics applies information systems and strategies to science, organizing scientific data into forms that can be readily used by researchers to answer biological questions.

"SickKids has been an undisputed leader in human gene mapping within Canada," explains Dr. Cuticchia. "Given the relationship between bioinformatics and the genome program it is only natural that we build on that excellence and expand into this new area. At SickKids the hosting of the Canadian site of the GDB is just one of several steps underway to demonstrate our commitment to bioinformatics."

Due to funding cuts, maintenance of the Johns Hopkins site will be discontinued at the end of January 1999. SickKids is considering taking over the management of the entire GDB.

The Hospital for Sick Children is Canada's premier health research facility and one of the world's leading centres for genetics research. Through its Centre for Applied Genomics it offers scientists from SickKids and across Canada such services as DNA sequencing and synthesis, gene and chromosome mapping, gene identification, and bioinformatics.

The Hospital for Sick Children Genome Database can be found at: http://gdb.sickkids.on.ca.

For more information, please contact:

Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Suite 1742, Public Affairs, First floor Atrium
Toronto, ON
M5G 1X8
Canada
Phone: 416-813-5058
Fax: 416-813-5328