The U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and Diversa Corporation (Nasdaq: DVSA) today announced a collaboration to discover and sequence novel microbial genomes found in a diverse range of unique habitats. Under the collaboration, Diversa will use its proprietary technologies to extract DNA from environmental samples and make gene libraries, while JGI will perform DNA sequencing. All DNA sequence data from the collaboration will be provided to Diversa and deposited in GenBank within six months of the completion of sequencing to allow public access by scientists around the world.
“The microbial world is the next genomic frontier,” said JGI Director Eddy Rubin, M.D., Ph.D. “The human genome has been sequenced, and now we’re ready to tackle the larger and more complex challenge of sequencing microbial diversity.”
“We believe the scientific, environmental, and commercial benefits from this project will be considerable,” Rubin continued, “and we’re pleased to be working with Diversa, a company that has clearly demonstrated leadership in legally and efficiently accessing the vast microbial diversity present in the environment.”
“There are more genes in a handful of soil than in the entire human genome,” said Jay M. Short, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Diversa. “At Diversa, we are committed to developing products from the rich genomic resource of uncultured microbes living in nearly every environment on earth. We believe that our sequencing collaboration with JGI will contribute greatly to our understanding and utilization of microbial genes.”
Microbes, the oldest form of life on Earth, inhabit nearly every environment and can thrive under extreme conditions of heat, cold, pressure, and radiation. Although microbes represent the vast majority of life on the planet, more than 99% have not been cultured, and consequently their genomic diversity has been largely unrecognized and unutilized. By studying their DNA, scientists hope to find ways to use microbes to develop new pharmaceutical and agricultural products, energy sources, industrial processes, and solutions to a variety of environmental problems.
Diversa and JGI will sequence DNA from microbes living in environments such as deep-sea thermal vents, insect endosymbionts, soil from nuclear weapons manufacturing sites, and water collected by rainforest epiphytes such as bromeliads that grow on giant trees. Diversa pioneered proprietary, genomics-based methods for discovering unexplored microbial diversity and recently received a patent for sequencing of mixed populations of microbial DNA directly from the environment, which is more efficient and effective than individually culturing and identifying microbes in the laboratory. Diversa estimates that its gene libraries currently contain the complete genomes of over three million unique microorganisms, comprising a vast resource of genetic material, which far exceeds the estimated 10,000 microorganisms that have been described in the scientific literature.
The Joint Genome Institute, which played a leading role in the recently completed effort to determine the DNA sequence of humans, is one of the world’s largest and most productive genome sequencing centers. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Microbial Genome Program, JGI has already sequenced more than 60 microbes, many of which have far-reaching implications for addressing such DOE mission challenges as the remediation of radioactive and hazardous waste sites, sequestering heat-trapping carbon from the atmosphere, and developing renewable energy sources.
JGI was established in 1997 by three DOE national laboratories managed by the University of California: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. In addition to its microbial sequencing projects, JGI has whole genome sequencing programs that include vertebrates, fungi, and plants. Funding for JGI is predominantly from the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in DOE’s Office of Science, with additional funding from NIH, NSF, USDA and NASA. Additional information and progress reports on JGI projects, including daily updates of sequence information and assembly statistics, are available at www.jgi.doe.gov. Additional information on the DOE Microbial Genome Program can be found at http://microbialgenomics.energy.gov.
Diversa Corporation is a leader in applying proprietary genomic technologies for the rapid discovery and optimization of novel products from genes and gene pathways. Diversa is directing its integrated portfolio of technologies to the discovery, evolution, and production of commercially valuable molecules with pharmaceutical applications, such as optimized monoclonal antibodies and orally active drugs, as well as enzymes and small molecules with agricultural, chemical, and industrial applications. In addition, the Company has formed alliances and joint ventures with market leaders, such as Celera Genomics, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont Bio-Based Materials, GlaxoSmithKline plc, Invitrogen Corporation, and affiliates of Syngenta AG. Additional information is available at Diversa’s website: www.diversa.com.
Statements in this press release that are not strictly historical are “forward-looking” and involve a high degree of risk and uncertainty. These include statements related to potential scientific discoveries resulting from the collaboration, success of joint DNA sequencing efforts, the novelty of microbial genomes sequenced, the realization of scientific, environmental, and/or commercial benefits from the collaboration, the ability to develop products based on results of the collaboration, the number of unique microorganisms represented in Diversa’s gene libraries, and the potential utility of those materials, all of which are prospective. Such statements are only predictions, and the actual events or results may differ materially from those projected in such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to differences include, but are not limited to, risks involved with Diversa’s and JGI’s ability to successfully discover and sequence novel microbial genomes, Diversa’s new and uncertain technologies and the utility of these technologies to produce novel genes, proteins, and other molecules of commercial interest, risks associated with Diversa’s dependence on patents and proprietary rights, risks associated with Diversa’s protection and enforcement of its patents and proprietary rights, Diversa’s dependence on existing collaborations, the ability of Diversa to maintain its collaboration with JGI, the ability of Diversa to commercialize products using Diversa’s technologies, the development or availability of competitive products or technologies, and the future ability of Diversa to enter into and/or maintain collaboration and joint venture agreements. Certain of these factors and others are more fully described in Diversa’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including, but not limited to, Diversa’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2002. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof. Diversa expressly disclaims any intent or obligation to update these forward-looking statements