Interbreeding by bass studied for effectsWhite bass or...

LIFE SCIENCES

November 17, 1992|By Liz Bowie

Interbreeding by bass studied for effects

White bass or striped bass?

That's the question being asked by fisheries scientists trying to determine the genetic purity of the Chesapeake Bay's striped bass population and the domesticated stock at the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station's Crane Aquaculture Facility.

"There is concern that interbreeding between striped bass and its hybrids is diluting the genetic purity of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay," said Dr. Reginald Harrell, an associate professor at the University of Maryland's Horn Point laboratory in Cambridge.

The implications of changing the genetic makeup of the bass are not clear. Still, Dr. Harrell wonders whether it could have contributed to the drastic decline of the bay's striped bass population before a fishing ban was imposed in the mid-1980s.

Using new methods of genetic analysis, scientists have started vTC two studies to compare the DNA of individual fish and to determine their genetic makeup.

Maryland scientists are working with a South Carolina researcher who has developed a gene probe that works like a heat-seeking missile -- searching out segments of DNA.

They have assembled a library of striped bass DNA fragments, the chemicals that hold genetic information. Clones of the fragments are made and mixed with fragments from other bass species. The clone will bind to a particular place along the DNA segment, allowing researchers to compare the segments between fish.

The technique has implications for aquaculture. At the Crane Aquaculture Facility, Dr. L. Curry Woods III is ensuring that the second- and third generations of wild striped bass he has been rearing in the center since 1983 are genetically pure.

"I am trying to quantify the genetic purity of the stocks . . . for the purpose of having a clean breeding program," Dr. Woods said.

The Crane facility, which is cooperating with researchers at the Center for Marine Biotechnology, plans to genetically improve stocks so the fish grow faster and begin reproducing earlier.

Dr. Harrell will use the technique to determine whether hybrids -- half white bass and half striped bass -- which were supposed to be sterile when released into the bay in the 1980s, have mated with the wild population.

Baltimore-D.C. region ranks 4th in biotech

Washington/Baltimore is the nation's fourth-largest biotechnology region, based on number of companies, according to a recently released survey. Accounting firm Ernst and Young's annual industry survey says Washington/Baltimore falls just behind the regions surrounding Boston, New York and San Francisco. San Diego comes in fifth.

But most of the companies in this region tend to be younger and smaller than those in other major biotech centers. For instance, 62 percent of San Diego's companies are midsize -- between 51 to 135 employees -- while only 39 percent of Washington's are considered midsize. And the Washington/Baltimore region contains only 9 percent of the industry as a whole.

This region had $223 million in biotech product sales, a 26 percent increase from the previous year. That's not bad compared to $253 million in sales in the Boston region. But it's puny compared to $1 billion in the San Francisco area, home of Genentech Inc.

"The reason we haven't had larger companies with a revenue base is that we haven't had technology transfer," said William E. Cole, director of entrepreneur services for Ernst and Young's Baltimore office.

In the past year, the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University have beefed up their technology transfer offices.

Mr. Cole thinks the state has taken some important steps toward bolstering the industry. Two examples: the Maryland Venture Capital Fund, which will provide seed money for young companies, and the Maryland Bioprocessing Center, designed to help small companies develop drugs in quantities needed for clinical trials.

Maryland could help the industry further, he said, by changing tax laws. Biotech companies, for example, pay a tax on research and development equipment, although companies in other industries aren't taxed on manufacturing equipment.

Ah; Seminar on recruiting biotech personnel

Finding qualified employees for high-technology companies has become a common problem.

The Anne Arundel County High Technology Council will address the issue at a seminar on recruiting and retaining employees from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23. The seminar will be held in the conference room of the Conte Building, 116 Defense Highway, Annapolis.

For more information, call (800) 231-6101.

John Culligan retires from Scios Nova

John Culligan, the 75-year-old retired chairman of American Home Products, retired last week as chairman of the board of California-based Scios Nova Inc. Richard L. Casey, 46, who is the company's chief executive and president, will succeed Mr. Culligan on the board.

Another biotechnology company that is getting business expertise from retired executives of large companies is Molecular Oncology Inc. The Gaithersburg-based pharmaceutical company recently named James W. Church to its board. Mr. Church retired in 1992 as president of business development for Johnson and Johnson's pharmaceutical sector.

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