Back in 1995, a company called Lexicon Genetics set up shop in the Woodlands, based on a dream of making mice that could help cure all kinds of diseases. By 1998, they were describing some of the first successes in making mice with mutations in genes that had been knocked out by a "gene trap", and soon they described a library of frozen mouse stem cell lines for the world to use.
Now, it stands to reason that in our capitalist society, someone with a better mousetrap would be allowed to make a buck on it. A review in the prestigious Nature Reviews Genetics wrote:
Sequence-based initiatives are well suited to the biotech world and therefore, predictably, Lexicon Genetics, Inc., was founded on the basis of using polyA gene trapping. More than 100,000 trap insertions in ES cells have been deposited into Lexicon Genetics 'OmniBank'... By searching the OmniBank database, clones can be identified that harbour an insertion in a particular gene, and mice derived from the trapped cell lines can be purchased at a minimum cost of US $25,000, plus additional compensation if patents are generated from work with trapped strains.
So, in 2005 Governor Perry cut a deal to let the A&M system help exploit this gold mine for the citizens of Texas.
Gov. Rick Perry today [July 16, 2005] announced a $50 million Texas Enterprise Fund grant to help create the Texas Institute for Genomic Medicine (TIGM), a pioneering research institution that will help make Texas an international focal point for medical research and foster job growth in the life science industry.
The funds are being awarded to Lexicon Genetics and the Texas A&M University System, which are forming the non-profit TIGM.
At the time, it was expected that the National Institutes of Health was looking to spend $50 million on a knockout mouse project, and TIGM would be perfectly placed to recover all of the TEF investment. Sure enough, that fall, the NIH released a Request For Applications.
- The ultimate aim of the Knockout Mouse Project is to generate a null-mutant mouse resource comprising a null mutation marked with a reporter of high utility for each gene in mouse strain C57BL/6. The purpose of this RFA is to make maximum progress toward this goal using gene targeting, transposon-mediated mutagenesis or gene trapping.
- Up to $50 million in total costs over 5 years is to be awarded through this RFA.
- It is anticipated that 1 to 4 awards will be made.
- It is anticipated that the awards will be funded in July 2006.
To be continued...