Greater Role for Weizmann Institute in Human Genome Project


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Pilusky and Esterman. big in bioinformatics

The Weizmann Institute is slated to play an increasingly important role in the Human Genome Project, which is expected to provide researchers with a molecular "encyclopedia" of human genes and yield new possibilities for diagnosing, preventing and treating numerous disorders.

This enhanced participation, which will significantly upgrade Israel's genetic research infrastructure, was made possible by major grants received by the Weizmann Institute and Tel Aviv University from Israel's council for Higher Education, on the recommendation of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. The funds will aid the establishment of the Israel National Genome Project, which will encompass a Bioinformatics Genome Resource Core (BIGROC) at the Weizmann Institute and a National Laboratory for Israel Population Genetics at Tel Aviv University.

These facilities will enable local scientists to become full partners in the Human Genome Project, the 15-year $3-billion undertaking that was launched by the world scientific community in 1989 on the initiative of the U.S. government. At the Weizmann Institute, the Council for Higher Education grant, together with a parallel major grant provided by the Israel Ministry of Science and the Arts, will help improve the country's bioinformatics infrastructure. This includes the computers and on-line connections operated by the Institute's Biological Computing Division, which provide scientists with access to daily updated, international biology databases and the ability to interact with researchers abroad. In addition, the Institute's Biological Services Unit, which already has three automated DNA sequencing machines and other necessary ancillary equipment, will be further expanded to better serve the country's genetic researchers and dozens of investigations going on at the Institute itself. New DNA sequencing technologies are currently being implemented.

The Weizmann contingent of the Genome Resource Core will also receive support from UNESCO in order to assist other countries in setting up their own biological information banks. Such bioinformatics collaboration with Poland is already under way.

The Bioinformatics and Genome operations at the Weizmann Institute of Science are supervised by a committee headed by Prof. Doron Lancet of the Department of Membrane Research and Biophysics and includes Prof. Marvin Edelman of the Department of Plant Genetics, Dr. Levy Ulanovsky of the Department of Structural Biology and Prof. David Givol, Department of Chemical Immunology. Operations are carried out by Prof. Menachem Rubinstein, Head of Biological Services; Mr. Leon Esterman, an engineer who heads the Biological Computing Division; and Dr. Jaime Prilusky, Head of the Bioinformatics Unit.

Prof. Edelman holds the Sir Siegmund Warburg Chair of Agricultural Molecular Biology; Prof. Givol, the Oscar H. And Anne Altshuler Chair of Immunochemistry; and Prof. Rubinstein, the Maurice and Edna Weiss Chair of Interferon Research.