Breaking off a historic alliance between a biotech start-up and a basic research foundation, Human Genome Sciences Inc. and The Institute of Genomics Research (TIGR) yesterday ended a 5-year relationship in which Human Genome tried to invent new drugs based on TIGR's cutting-edge work in determining the basic structure of human genes.
The deal saves Human Genome $38.2 million it would have owed TIGR for future research, and gives the nonprofit TIGR the freedom to pursue other funding, and to publish its research more quickly.
"There's $38 million [Human Genome] can use to develop its own internal research focused directly on human medicine, where TIGR is focused on basic research," said Human Genome spokesman Jerry Parrott.
J. Craig Venter, the former National Institutes of Health biologist who runs Gaithersburg-based TIGR, said the 150-researcher institute has been broadening beyond sequencing the human genome -- a task that, at least in basic form, is mostly complete -- into even more fundamental work researching the structure of plant life and elementary animal forms.
TIGR was the first research institute to determine the entire genetic sequence of a living organism when, in 1995, it unveiled the genetic code for a bacterium that causes meningitis. It is one of six institutes funded by NIH to participate in the Human Genome Project, which will eventually give science a detailed map of human genetics and give drug companies a menu of ideas from which to launch research on new therapies.
TIGR and Rockville-based HGS were founded in 1992 by the same New Jersey-based venture capital firm, Health Care Investment Corp. Then, HGS committed $85 million to TIGR in exchange for the rights to all drugs developed from TIGR's research.
But HGS has long since begun compiling its own database of genetic sequences, Parrott said, reducing its reliance on TIGR just as the nonprofit institute wants to branch out into fields of research that HGS doesn't have the time or money to pursue.
Pub Date: 6/24/97