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July 22, 1998

The Hospital for Sick Children opens Centre for Applied Genomics

TORONTO - The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) has created a research facility that will help ensure Canada maintains its prominent international role in genetic research. The Hospital's new Centre for Applied Genomics builds on more than 40 years of experience in genetics and focuses on activities that will allow Canada to benefit from the biological information being generated by the Human Genome Project, the worldwide scientific effort to decode the human genome.

"Since the early 1950s The Hospital for Sick Children has been the Canadian leader in genetic research, in terms of size, scope and results," explains geneticist-in-chief Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, the Centre's new director, head of the Genetics and Genomic Biology research program in the Hospital's Research Institute, and a professor of Medical Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Toronto. "The Centre for Applied Genomics will accelerate our activities by providing additional resources to expand our research efforts in DNA sequencing and chromosome mapping, disease gene discovery, and the emerging science of bioinformatics."

Bioinformatics applies information technology to answer biological questions, explains Dr. Jamie Cuticchia, who joined the Hospital last year to establish the bioinformatics program. "At the Centre we will use bioinformatics to turn data collected by researchers into knowledge that can be shared with the scientific community around the world."

Since the Human Genome Project began in the late 1980s, researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children have played a key role in Canadian genome research. The 1989 discovery by Dr. Tsui and his colleagues of the cystic fibrosis gene drew international attention to Canadian genome research. To date, SickKids scientists have identified 12 disease genes, including those for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Tay-Sachs disease, and colon cancer.

"The rapid pace of new gene discovery that is occurring due to the Human Genome Project is creating an unprecedented revolution in genetics," says Dr. Steve Scherer, one of the Centre's principal investigators.

The Centre for Applied Genomics will initially cost $1.2 million per year to operate and is funded by grants obtained from the Medical Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Genetics Diseases Network, as well as individual investigators and The Hospital for Sick Children Foundation. Additional funding for the Centre will be sought from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Challenge Fund, and the Medical Research Council of Canada through its renewed genome initiative.

The 6,000-square-foot Centre contains facilities for DNA sequencing and synthesis, gene and chromosome mapping, and gene identification, as well as bioinformatics. The Centre's core facilities are shared among researchers throughout SickKids and are also available to other Canadian scientists.

In addition to Drs. Tsui, Scherer, and Cuticchia, and several other principal investigators, the Centre is staffed by 13 research technicians, as well as graduate students. Additional technicians and computer personnel will also be hired.

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