Tracking genes using cutting-edge technologies

Newly founded Tübingen-based CeGAT GmbH offers commercial sequencing of DNA and RNA

Stuttgart/Tübingen, (PresseBox) - To adequately meet the growing demand for genetic diagnostics, doctor, scientist and bioinformatician Dr. Saskia Biskup and her husband, business graduate Dr. Dirk Biskup, founded the "Center for Genomics and Transcriptomics" - or CeGAT for short - in July 2009. As a supplier of DNA and RNA sequencing in the STERN BioRegion, CeGAT, which is based in the Technology park Tübingen Reutlingen (TTR), uses state-of-the-art high-throughput technologies to examine genotypes for hereditary disorders.

Since the decoding of the human genome - the totality of human genetic information - in 2000, human geneticists have been able to examine human DNA for around 3,000 disorders that arise as a result of genetic mutations. People who have a family history of hereditary disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases and particular types of cancer, wonder whether they themselves might one day be affected by these or how high the risk is of inheriting such a disorder. A genetic analysis can help to answer those troubling questions.

CeGAT GmbH, founded at TTR in July 2009, offers services relating to all aspects of DNA and RNA sequencing as well as evaluation and interpretation of the resulting data. The genotype is decoded using state-of-the art technologies, with both conventional methods and cutting-edge high-throughput sequencing being utilised. CeGAT is not just the sole commercial supplier of DNA and RNA sequencing in the region but is also the first company on the German market to offer the SOLiD 3 high-throughput sequencer from Applied Biosystems, which was launched in March 2009.

In the field of DNA diagnostics, CeGAT provides an analysis of all human genes that have so far been identified as pathogenic. There are numerous disorders, such as tumours, epilepsy, heart disease and Parkinson's, which can be caused by mutations in various genes. Studying strands of relevant DNA individually one after the other is very time-consuming and expensive. CeGAT therefore brings together in a diagnostics panel all the genes that are known to trigger one of these disorders and sequences these genes simultaneously using high-throughput technology. This not only makes the examination much faster for patients but also far less expensive.

CeGAT is not restricted to humans. "As DNA and RNA occur in all organisms, we are open to all projects," says Saskia Biskup. Scientists who deal with animal or plant genotypes can therefore also use the sequencing centre.

Alongside its contract research, the centre is also able to devote time to its own research and development projects. Saskia Biskup, who herself conducts Parkinson's research, would like to specialise in dementia disorders in the field of neurodegenerative diseases in particular. In her view, the Tübingen area offers ideal conditions to do this. "The fact that we have many patients here with dementia disorders is very useful for diagnostics and research. We gather experience that is essential for understanding disease mechanisms," she says. Prof. Thomas Gasser, Director of the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research in Tübingen, Department of Neurodegenerative Diseases, and Clinical Director of the Neurology department specialising in neurodegenerative diseases at the University Hospital Tübingen, is the first member of the scientific advisory board at CeGAT.

Dr. Detlef Böhm, CeGAT's head of laboratory, has already gathered extensive experience in DNA diagnostics and establishing new methods and procedures while working as a laboratory manager at various physicians' practices specialising in human genetics. Dirk Biskup, who takes care of administrative matters for the scientific team at CeGAT, believes this arrangement offers great potential: "We have medicine, genetic research and bioinformatics under one roof. We are looking to establish ourselves as a service provider for high-throughput sequencing on a long-term basis and drive forward the development of new applications." He is particularly impressed by the comprehensive and expert support from BioRegio STERN Management GmbH in setting up CeGAT, a process that took only one year to get from the initial idea to the start-up phase. Dr. Klaus Eichenberg, the Managing Director of BioRegio STERN Management GmbH, is delighted with the positive feedback.

"CeGAT is a very welcome partner for doctors, hospitals, scientists and private individuals," he says. "The importance of genetic diagnostics will continue to grow rapidly. Thanks to CeGAT, our region is once again delivering significant impetus for further advances."

About CeGAT:

CeGAT GmbH, Center for Genomics and Transcriptomics, was founded in 2009. CeGAT's services include DNA and RNA sequencing of humans, animals, plants and micro-organisms. Sequencing is performed using state-of-the-art technologies, with "conventional" Sanger sequencing and cutting-edge high-throughput sequencing (ABI SOLiD technology) available. The results are evaluated and interpreted as required. CeGAT GmbH is therefore a contact and service provider for doctors, hospitals, scientists and private individuals. The development and research activities of CeGAT GmbH focus on enabling high-throughput sequencing to also be used for DNA diagnostics. At the heart of these activities is the establishment of diagnostic panels for various disorders, notably for dementia, neurodegenerative, metabolic and eye disorders.

BioRegio STERN Management GmbH

BioRegio STERN Management GmbH is a skill-sharing network, providing a help and advice centre for founders of new businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers in the biotechnology sector in the region comprising Stuttgart, Tübingen, Esslingen, Reutlingen and Neckar-Alb in Germany. BioRegio STERN promotes cooperation between such different disciplines as medicine, biochemical engineering, sensor technology, dietetics, biochemical analysis and bioinformatics. Key areas of focus are regeneration medicine and medical technology.

BioRegio STERN represents the interests of founders of new businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers when dealing with the political sector, the media and associations, coordinates economic promotional activities and marketing and provides advice for grant applications and corporate financing, all backed up with efficient press and public relations work.

BioRegio STERN is supported by the Stuttgart and Neckar-Alb regional authorities and the municipal authorities of Stuttgart, Tübingen, Esslingen and Reutlingen. The Managing Director, Dr. Klaus Eichenberg, is a molecular and cell biologist and investment analyst.

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