Genome Project Lacks Funding
Tallinn - The ambitious Estonian Genome Project (EGP) may have to find new financiers to continue operations. In the course of disagreements over the project's priorities the US-investor EGeen International Corp. has withheld the funding for the next round. The Estonian Government reacted with a financial aid of some Euro255,590 in late January (EuroBiotechNews 1/04).
While EGeen, a biotechnology company founded for the commercial use of the EGP data, makes further funding conditional upon a narrowed research focus on diabetes, heart diseases and rheumatoid arthritis, the EGP's initiators refer to the idea behind the gene bank. As declared in the Estonian government's Human Genes Research Act in 2000 the EGP aims to compile a broad genetic database of the Estonian population. It has however also focused on diabetes or hypertension. Under the terms of the public-private partnership between EGeen and the EGP Foundation the latter is the owner of the database, while EGeen, the exclusive commercial licensee of the database, finances the project. So far Euro3.5 million have flown into the EGP's budget.
”EGeen and the foundation are working on the project's development plan for 2004 and beyond” said EGeen's CEO Kalev Kask to EuroBiotechNews. Should EGeen however insist on the norrowed research focus, the foundation will re-consider the existing contract and the company's exclusive rights. Negotiations with other investors are already under way, in particular with the Estonian government and the British charity Welcome Trust. The foundation plans to co-operate with similar gene bank projects in the UK, Canada and Finland.