Browse by year:
'Gene Scan' Eyes The Globe
Sunday, October 1, 2000

If all goes well, “Gene Scan” has the potential to penetrate the niche international market for scientific packages. Developed by a group of scientists at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi in collaboration with software company Unitech Infosolutions, Gurgaon, the product targets scientific communities isolating specific genes.

Although the Human Genome Project is unleashing vast amounts of data, a lot of work remains to be done in isolating identifying individual genes for specific medical or other research. It is here that packages like “Gene Scan” bring value to researchers. To decipher the sequencing data, scientists take the help of this software that utilizes high throughput screening techniques to analyze data on genes.

“This is the first software package developed for gene analysis in India. It has certain features that allow you to pick up genes which some other packages are not able to pick up,” explains Dr. Alok Bhattacharya, professor at the School of Life Sciences, JNU, and one of the key researchers behind Gene Scan.

The product may not have been a great commercial success as yet, but it has made headlines in right scientific circles. Dr. Bhattacharya says that Celera Genomics president Craig Ventor has listed Gene Scan among the top ten packages useful for gene prediction from the human genome data that is available in public domain.

The product may also find application in plant genomics research. “We are talking to them and we will be evaluating this product for possible use in the rice genome program,” says Dr. Akhilesh Tyagi, professor at the Department of Molecular Biology, Delhi University. The lab is participating in the recently launched Rs. 500 million Rice Genome Program initiated by the Indian government, as a part of the International Rice Genome Project.

Gene Scan is a handy computational tool for genomic analysis. At present it is a Windows-based program that uses a simple method of gene prediction that is based on a universal property of DNA sequences in all organisms. Coding regions have short-range correlations in the arrangement of the different nucleic acids, while noncoding regions have, in contrast, only long-range correlations.

Unitech says the accuracy of Gene Scan is comparable to other techniques currently in use. However, since it is a “non-consensus technique,” GeneScan can be very useful in the analysis of novel genomes and novel genes. The objective is to provide researchers in this area with tools to help in predicting probable genes, with an emphasis on finding good universal features to predict coding regions and then develop visualization tools to help researchers analyze the overall picture for the genome.

The company is currently making the program compatible for the Linux platform, which is reported to be a favorite among the genome research community.

Gene Scan is a typical example of lack of linkages between academic institutions and the industry. It is perhaps surprising that a product like Gene Scan was rejected by a leading infotech giant when the JNU team approached it for help in commercialization. Finally, the researchers had to settle for a smaller, little known player. “They did not realize the importance of such a package and took no interest in marketing it, when it was fully known that such products will be in great demand once genome sequencing data is published,” according to a member of the JNU team.

Share on LinkedIn