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Subject:  CRA News from Washington Post Date:  3/6/2000  9:02 AM
Author:  Mcandret Number:  6396 of 36502

Reprinted in the Arizona Republic 3/6/00 from the Washington Post is the following:

Behind-the-scenes negotiations to create a grand alliance of public and private researchers to unravel the human genetic code all but collapsed Sunday as the the two sides accused each other of manipulation and bad faith.

Newly available documents show that representatives of the National Human Genome Research Institute, the lead aency in an international campaign to map all human genes, and of Celera Genomics Corp., the Rockville, Md., biotechnology company pursuing the same endeavor, have been talking since December.

The negotiators hoped to strike a deal that would merge the international Human Genome Project with Celera's efforts, producing a top-notch, virtually comple map of human genes by late this year, far earlier than the 2003 deadline set by the Human Genome Project.

Such a map, a central goal of modern science, promises to speed medical research and shed light on some profound mysteries of human biology.

"Humankind" will be better served if we can find a viable way to join forces to produce a better product in a more timely fashion," one negotiating document said.

But the effort appears to have foundered amid sharp disagreements about commercial use of the gene database that would result from the collaboration.

What could be the final blow came Sunday, when the Wellcome Trust, a large British charity heavily involved in financing gene research and long suspicious of Celera's efforts, released a copy of a letter from public negotiators to J. Craig Venter, Celera's president and chief scientific officer.

The letter, dated Feb. 28 and marked "confidential" outlines difficulties in the negotiations and sets a deadline of Monday for Venter to alter his positions. In a telephone interview, Venter said he interpreted release of the letter the day before the deadline as an effort to pressure him.

Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and principal author of the letter, said he played no role in releasing it and learned the Wellcome Trust was about to do so over the weekend.

He added, however that negotiations with Celera have been disappointing, and barring some unexpected breakthrough, a public-private collaboration to map the genetic code is unlikely.
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