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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 15:09 GMT
Gene markers posted on net
The consortium is involved in a two-year project

The major international effort to track down important genetic markers known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) released its first batch of data on Tuesday.

SNPs are the minute variations scattered through human DNA that make us all different.

Pinpointing these changes will lead to an understanding of why some people are predisposed to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, depression and arthritis, whilst others are not.

Knowledge about SNPs should also allow new drugs to be made more effective and tailored to an individual's genetic make-up.

The SNP Consortium Ltd, which includes many of the world's leading research organisations and drug companies, intends to make all of its data freely available to biomedical scientists everywhere.

The consortium has put information about 2,566 SNPs on its website.

Essential tool

"Members of the SNP Consortium believe that a high-quality SNP map will prove to be an essential tool for understanding the genetic basis of disease, and as such, should not be subject to intellectual property restrictions," said Arthur Holden, chairman and chief executive officer of The SNP Consortium.

"Today's data release is the first of many we plan over the next two years as we work to construct a SNP map that is extensive, reliable, widely accepted, and freely available to medical researchers in industry, academic, government and independent laboratories."

About 99.9% of our DNA sequence is identical to that of all other humans. Only 0.1%, roughly one nucleotide base in every 1000 of the three billion total, differs from one individual to the next.

Each of us has a unique combination of SNPs, which explains why we are all different, and why, scientists suspect, some of us suffer heart attacks in middle age while others are still going strong in their nineties.

On completion of the 28m, two-year project, the SNP database will probably contain about 300,000 SNPs.

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