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NSF Press Release


NSF PR 00-39 - May 31, 2000

Media contact:

 Cheryl Dybas

 (703) 292-8070

Program contact:

 Paul Gilna

 (703) 292-8470

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Valuable Arabidopsis Data Released Through Unique Public-Private Partnership

New data that will allow researchers to isolate essentially any gene in Arabidopsis, a mustard plant that serves as a model organism for scientists worldwide--and will greatly facilitate the goal of understanding the function of every gene in Arabidopsis within the next 10 years--have just been released by The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR). The data set represents a qualitative leap in genetics for Arabidopsis. The data release also represents a new paradigm in public-private information sharing for the genomic study of model organisms. TAIR is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

TAIR, a collaboration between the National Center for Genome Resources (NCGR) and the Department of Plant Biology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW), now offers a comprehensive list of more than 39,000 polymorphisms via a Web site, These data were discovered by Cereon Genomics, LLC, which has taken a groundbreaking step in making privately owned data available to the public sector. If followed by others, this will revolutionize the sharing of biological data in the post-genomic era.

"The partnership between TAIR and Cereon could well set the standard for future models of academic access to important industrial datasets," said Paul Gilna, program director in NSF's biological database and informatics program.

Polymorphisms between subspecies of an organism are typically used to map genes on a chromosome and eventually isolate the gene to study its function.

"This is an incredible resource," said Chris Somerville, director of plant biology at Carnegie. "No other organism has such a rich collection of polymorphisms accessible to the academic and nonprofit sector. These data will greatly facilitate the isolation of genes by map-based cloning, among other goals."

"The true value lies in integration," said Bruno Sobral, vice-president of scientific programs at NCGR. "When the public and private data are combined, we have a better road map for getting to the actual genes, which is what we all want."

Researchers in the academic and nonprofit sector can access the new Arabidopsis data by registering at and agreeing to the terms of access by Cereon. The agreement is based on the premise that the Cereon information cannot be used in a commercial setting (i.e. selling parts of the database for profit). It is not a restriction on any results gained from the use of the information (i.e. if the data lead to the discovery of a gene, the restriction does not apply to the gene). Registered users will get a free license and can publish up to 20 polymorphisms without obligation to Cereon but cannot sell or redistribute the data. Other potential users should contact Cereon by email at for a commercial license.


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NSF is an independent federal agency which supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of about $4 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states, through grants to about 1,600 universities and institutions nationwide. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding awards.



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