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Genomics in San Diego: From the Human Genome to a New Biotechnology Focus


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“high throughput genomics.” The development of sophisticated robotics helped GNF, Syrrx, SGX Pharmaceuticals, and Kalypsys to push the boundaries of automating high throughput structural determination and screening. Indeed, GNF and Kalypsys both have developed robotics products for drug discovery. These advances can certainly be considered part of San Diego’s contribution to the genomics field, and helped pave the way in drug discovery.

Some might say the utilization of genomics for drug discovery also has come full circle in San Diego with Fate Therapeutics. They have developed a novel platform that utilizes high throughput gene expression data analysis in combination with small molecule screening in stem cells and derived cell types to find new therapeutics. Stem cells represent an ideal way to create and screen rare cell types, and of course Fate represents one of the most promising areas of biotech research today.

San Diego drug discovery companies also have utilized genomic information to focus on protein families, with Ambit Biosciences using competition binding assays to drive their own kinase drug discovery research, as well as providing the related KinomeScan product as a research tool. ActivX’s technology, which came from TSRI, focuses on gaining information from enzyme family active sites through covalent modification. Phenomix, a GNF spinoff, took a different tactic to simplify the gene-to-disease problem, first by screening physiological models, and then identifying the genes responsible. All three companies are still in existence, relying on partnerships, products, or services to stay afloat and to put compounds to the clinic. But none has reached the market yet.

Even before the completion of the human genome project, San Diego companies were developing important tools for analyzing genomic DNA. Sequenom, founded in 1994, is perhaps the first of these DNA-focused companies. Sequenom’s mass spectrometry-based DNA analysis tools are used by researchers to find single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and methylation sites, and the technology also is used for prenatal diagnostic tests.

Illumina is considered by many to be San Diego’s genomics “rock star.” It was founded in 1998, after licensing “BeadArray” technology from … Next Page »

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