ASU biophysicist gets grant to accelerate gene-mapping

November 29, 2004

By hammersmith

Arizona State University biophysicist Stuart Lindsay received a $550,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for his project that could potentially reduce the time and cost of decoding genetic sequences. By passing DNA strands through tiny ring-shaped sugar molecules, Lindsay hopes to increase the accuracy and decrease the cost of genomic sequencing, thereby paving the way for genetic medicine. The initial sequencing of the human genome, completed first in 2002, took 11 years and $1 billion to pull off. Lindsay’s method, if eventually successful, could complete the same task in hours for less than $1,000.

The award is one of seven given by the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Revolutionary Genome Sequencing Technologies grant program this year.

Lindsay, a physics professor and director of the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Single Molecule Biophysics, is fully aware of the challenges still ahead. “There is still a fair amount of harsh reality to deal with,” he says.

But having his project selected from among so many competing proposals signals to Lindsay and ASU that he may be on the track to revolutionizing molecular bioscience. The technology that Lindsay’s team is working on, called Atomic Force Microscopy, operates by passing a strand of DNA through ring-shaped sugar molecules called cyclodextrins, which would read the texture of the amino acid base code with greater accuracy and precision than the current sequencing techniques, which require creating a facsimile of the DNA code and possibly losing portions of the base code along the way.

Lindsay’s three-year grant is one of 19 granted in the latest $38 million NIH funding cycle.

For more information:

New technique could revolutionize DNA sequencing,” ASU News, 11/15/2004

ASU gets grant to boost gene-mapping speed,” Business Journal, 11/08/2004