Celera Teams with Geron to Map Functions of the Human Genome

June 13, 2000; Rockville, MD (WSJ.com News Roundup) -- Celera Genomics Group agreed to combine its sequencing information and gene-discovery systems with Geron Corp.'s expertise in embryonic stem-cell biology in an attempt to find the function of genes in human-cell differentiation. Under the agreement, the companies said they will develop drugs and therapies, as well as tools for drug discovery and testing.

"Celera's agreement with Geron is important because we will be using human pluripotent stem cells, the most basic form of human cells that contain a diverse set of genes not expressed in high abundance in other cells, as a source to better understand the human genome," said Dr. J. Craig Venter, Celeras's President and Chief Scientific Officer. "Our goal is to enable the development of new approaches to prevent, diagnose, and treat some of our most devastating diseases, such as heart disease, Parkinson's Disease, and cancer," he added.

Celera, formerly the genomic operations of Perkin-Elmer Inc., provides genomic information management and analysis software. Sometime in the next few weeks, scientists at Celera are expected to announce a rough draft of the complete sequence of DNA letters that make up the human genetic code. Celera's efforts parallel the work of researchers at the Human Genome Project, a publicly-funded international consortium formed in 1990. It is expected that the consortium will publish its results -- a map that covers 90 percent of the length of human DNA -- by late Summer or early Fall. Together, Celera's findings and the Human Genome Project's results are expected to provide a blueprint for pharmaceutical companies trying to develop new medications in the battle against certain diseases.

For Geron, a Menlo Park, CA, biopharmaceutical company, the partnership with a major genomics company validates its stem-cell technology and offers proof of its potential commercial viability, said Mr. Steve Brozak, an analyst at Vanguard Capital. "You are talking about a deal with one of the big household names," said Mr. Brozak, who rates Geron's stock at "strong buy."