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IP: DNA bank launched as science spending rises

From: [email protected]
Subject: IP: DNA bank launched as science spending rises
Date: Wed, 28 Oct 1998 11:35:31 -0600
To: [email protected]

Source:  London Telegraph

DNA bank launched as science spending rises
 By Roger Highfield, Science Editor 

 A NATIONAL collection of 100,000 human DNA samples is to be
 assembled so drugs can be customised and people at risk from allergies,
 drug side-effects and serious illnesses can be identified.

 The 12 million plan to study the genetic landscape of the British
 which includes funding to address ethical concerns, is part of a major
shift in
 the emphasis of science spending announced by the Government yesterday.
 Funding for particle physics and astronomy remains almost level while there
 is a major boost for biotechnology and molecular biology, despite the rise in
 public concern about issues such as genetically-modified food.

 Announcing the science budget allocation, Peter Mandelson, Secretary of
 State for Trade and Industry, said the overall 15 per cent increase by
 2001/02 was "solid evidence" of Government efforts to reverse the recent
 decline in spending on science, which it sees as underpinning the economy.

 The rise was announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Mr
 Mandelson said the science budget "received the largest percentage increase
 compared with all departmental budgets".

 Yesterday's allocations saw Mr Mandelson increase funding of the Medical
 Research Council (MRC) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
 Research Council.

 The news comes only days after America's National Human Genome
 Research Institute announced that the three-billion "letter" human genetic
 code - the genome - will be deciphered by 2003, two years earlier than
 thought. Now Britain is preparing to rise to this "post-genome challenge" by
 studying how this code varies across the British population.

 The DNA database project will be backed by the MRC, which will see its
 support rise from 290 million in 1998/09 to 334 million in 2001/02, and is
 being developed by Prof David Porteous of the MRC Human Genetics Unit
 in Edinburgh, and Prof Nick Day of the MRC Biostatistics Unit in

 The first step will be to collate information on 60,000 blood samples that
 have already been collected, for instance in studies of inherited
diseases, then
 extend the collection to people who have taken part in long-term health
 studies, some dating back more than half a century.

 Prof George Radda, MRC's chief executive, said: "In the first wave, we are
 talking of the order of 100,000 samples, then it will be extended." He
 emphasised that there were "major ethical concerns".

 By comparing the genetic blueprints of people who suffer disease, genes
 increasing the risk of illness can be identified, said Prof Porteous. He
 "This is the surest way of digging out the really significant genetic
 They will be the basis of efforts to design new drugs and preventive

 One ethical issue will be whether drug companies will be allowed to use the
 data to design drugs for a particular genetic group. The information will
 help doctors advise those at risk of heart disease or cancer, or to identify
 those at risk of drug side-effects.

 Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 1998.
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