Genome project reaches milestone

Martha Krebs, Director of the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Research, announced in late October that the DOE-sponsored Joint Genome Institute (JGI) had surpassed its ambitious goal of sequencing 20 million base pairs of DNA for fiscal year 1998. "This achievement marks an unprecedented tenfold increase in production output over the previous year," said Krebs.
JGI, established in 1996, is a consortium of scientists, engineers, and support staff from Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, and Los Alamos national laboratories. JGI has assumed a key role in the international Human Genome Project's effort to determine all 3 billion base pairs that comprise the human genome. This worldwide project, the largest biological undertaking in history, promises untold opportunities to understand the basic molecular underpinnings of life and to improve human health.
JGI's goal in 1999 is to sequence an additional 70 million base pairs. By 2000, researchers hope to be sequencing at least 100 million base pairs each year.
The initial goal of the Human Genome Project was to complete the full sequence of the human genetic code by 2005. The new timetable calls for completing a "working draft" by the end of 2001 and a full sequence by 2003.
Details of the accelerated production schedule appear in the October 1998 issue of the journal Science.
Contact: Elbert Branscomb (925) 422-5681 (branscomb1@llnl.gov).

B Factory accelerator dedicated

On October 26, 1998, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson presided over the official startup of the B Factory at DOE's Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in Menlo Park, California. The $177-million facility is a collaborative effort of three Department of Energy laboratories-SLAC and Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories-working in concert with scientists and engineers from nine countries. Richardson noted that "The root of [the B Factory's] success is partnership, and one of the partnerships is between three of our premier national laboratories."
Karl van Bibber, the Livermore physicist who oversaw the Laboratory's contributions to the project, shared Richardson's sentiments. He noted that during the project, the three laboratories operated as a "superlab,"working in seamless partnership. The B Factory is a massive particle physics research instrument that scientists will use to investigate what happened a few trillionths of a second after the creation of the universe by the so-called Big Bang to cause a preponderance of matter over antimatter.
Close to 200 Livermore physicists, engineers, and technicians from disciplines ranging from particle physics to electroplating participated in the B Factory project. Livermore's primary contributions to the project include the construction of the 26 high-power radiofrequency cavities essential to maintaining the accelerator's operation. Livermore personnel were also responsible for designing and fabricating approximately 1,000 distributed ion pumps necessary for operation of the accelerator's high-energy electron storage ring.
For additional information about the B Factory and Lawrence Livermore's contributions to it, see the January/February 1997 S&TR, pp. 4-13 (available on the World Wide Web at ./01.97.html). See also the article in this issue of S&TR.
Contact: Karl van Bibber (925) 423-3371 (vanbibber1@llnl.gov).

Lab, partner developing glucose sensor

Lawrence Livermore researchers in partnership with MiniMed Inc. of Sylmar, California, are adapting laser technology used for fusion research to the treatment of diabetes. The Laboratory and MiniMed have signed a three-year cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA)-funded in part by a $2-million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program-to develop glucose sensor technologies to aid in controlling diabetes.
Livermore scientists and MiniMed researchers have been working together on new glucose-sensing technologies since 1996. MiniMed currently makes and markets in Europe a radio-controlled pump device that is implanted in the abdomen and allows a diabetic to forgo the multiple daily shots of insulin usually needed to control blood sugar levels. But to find out if insulin should be released and how much, patients must still draw their own blood and test the sugar level.
The glucose sensor project aims to make that part of the process automatic. Stephen Lane, leader of the glucose sensor project at Livermore, wants to develop an implantable monitor that measures the amount of light reflected from tissue. The more glucose in the tissue, the brighter the reflected light. The monitor system envisioned by Lane and his colleagues borrows laser technology used for fusion research at Livermore's Nova laser.
The glucose sensor would allow diabetics with a pump implant to receive the precise amount of insulin exactly when they need it without pin-prick testing. Those without a pump implant would receive a radio reading from the glucose sensor on a Dick Tracy-style wrist gizmo to let them know when an insulin injection is needed.
When used together, the two devices would essentially become an artificial pancreas-the organ that controls blood sugar levels.
Contact: Gordon Yano (925) 423-3117 (yano1@llnl.gov).
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