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Future Sarnoff Spinoff: GeneAccess

Last spring the big push to identify the human genome

was completed. Now 3 billion human genomes have been identified and

scientists are using this database to discover cures for anything

from Alzheimer’s to psoriasis. The information is free and available

at the biotechnology information site of the National Institutes

of Health, known as NCBI. But the entire genome map is a huge amount

to download. is a wholly-owned business of Sarnoff Corporation.

An early entry into the market for convenient access to genome


it already has two CD-ROMs on the market with information that is

free from the government website but packaged in a more convenient


The price seems very cheap — $20 or $25. For that money you could

buy the CD and use it for creating wallpaper patterns. The reason

for this low cost? "We wanted to establish our presence before

others could get into the game," says Rajan Kumar, project leader.

To make sense of the data scientists need computational algorithms,

and these are what GeneAccess will sell next. "Sarnoff has

a lot of technology and algorithms — computational genomics tools

for biomedical research."

Though two of the CD-ROMs are available on the market, no marketing

has been done. "We have it indexed and accessible in small


says Kumar. He has divided the material into sequences that would

take less than 10 seconds to download on a 56k modem.

The CD-ROM for the human genome costs $20. The cancer gene CD costs

$25 with the extra charge for an extra service — separating out

the genes that are important in human cancer and adding the cancer

genes found in the mouse and rat.

The CDs are useful as a publishing tool because they can prevent


mistakes. "Any time someone publishes a paper they are required

to submit the sequence data, and we have downloaded the


says Kumar.

Next on the market will be two of Sarnoff’s proprietary tools:


and GeneAccessBlast. The latter is a user-friendly version of the

"blast" tool available from NCBI. The "blast" is a

favorite algorithm, used by 95 percent of researchers, that allows

scientists to search the database for anything. On the NCBI site,

this tool is cumbersome, Kumar says.

As for the GeneAccessGenome, it allows scientists to use visual tools

for searches rather than text strings. It is a graphic overlay, a

visually object-oriented system.

Kumar grew up in the Punjab, where his father "gave up advancement

in his career so we could stay in one town, Patiala, for our


Kumar went to college and medical school in a 5 1/2 year program and

practiced medicine for two years. "Realizing that most advances

are going to come from molecular sciences, I came to the United States

to pursue a research career." He earned a PhD from Penn


with post doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins. Now 35 years old, he

has been at Sarnoff for five years.

— Barbara Fox, Fisher Place, c/o Sarnoff


CN 5300, Princeton 08543. Rajan Kumar MD PhD, project leader.


fax, 609-734-2040.

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