Applied Biosystems Helps Build Egypt's First Laboratory for Ancient DNA Analysis
Applied Biosystems (NYSE:ABI), an Applera Corporation business, today announced its collaboration with the Discovery Channel and Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities in establishing the first laboratory in Egypt dedicated to testing ancient DNA samples.
The laboratory, which is located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, began testing samples from ancient royal mummies from the 18th Dynasty in April as part of a project to identify the mummy of Hatshepsut, Egypt's most famous female pharaoh. Initial findings will be revealed in a two-hour documentary titled SECRETS OF EGYPT'S LOST QUEEN, which premiers Sunday, July 15 on the Discovery Channel.
Discovery Channel enlisted the services of Applied Biosystems, a global leader in the development and commercialization of instrument-based systems, consumables, software, and services for the life-science market, as part of a project aimed at discovering and identifying the lost mummy of Hatshepsut, one of the most important women in ancient Egyptian history. Hatshepsut was Egypt's most powerful female ruler, but she died mysteriously and her name and monuments were systematically erased. The film will chronicle the quest to find and identify the mummy of Hatshepsut and understand the mysteries surrounding her death.
The primary purpose of the new DNA laboratory is to assist in the identification of this and other mummies that have been removed from their original tombs, and to clarify familial relationships within and between Egypt's ancient dynasties. This is the first time DNA testing has been used to try to identify an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. DNA testing, combined with other forensic techniques, holds the potential to bring closure to unsolved mysteries and help Egypt fill in gaps in its significant history.
"By providing this technology to Egypt, Applied Biosystems is helping to advance science and bring our dead pharaohs back to life," said Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "A basement that was once a maze of artifacts is now a cutting-edge scientific lab, the first of its kind dedicated to revealing the mysteries of our mummies."
Applied Biosystems provided the Supreme Council of Antiquities with DNA analysis instrument systems, reagents, software, and training. This included an Applied Biosystems 9700 Thermocycler for DNA amplification and a 3130 Genetic Analyzer for DNA analysis, as well as forensic testing reagents including its newest advance in human identification technology, the AmpF STR(R) MiniFiler(TM) PCR Amplification Kit. The MiniFiler kit is the world's first commercially available reagent kit for generating genetic profiles from aged, compromised, or damaged DNA samples.
For the Hatshepsut project, the scientific team is testing two mummies that are known to be related to Hatshepsut -- those of her maternal grandmother and her father -- for comparison with two female mummies that were the final candidates thought to possibly be Hatshepsut.
The Egyptian team is conducting a combination of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA testing on the mummies. While nuclear DNA provides the most straightforward way to obtain an accurate DNA profile since it contains information from both parents, it is extremely difficult to obtain in cases of degraded samples as cells contain only one nucleus. Mitochondrial DNA is only passed down through the maternal side of a family, but because there can be thousands of mitochondria in each cell, mitochondrial DNA tests can supplement the analysis in cases where nuclear DNA testing fails to yield results.
Technical specialists from Applied Biosystems in both human identification and genetic analysis worked in Cairo to train members of the Egyptian team on the new DNA analysis technology. "The analysis of ancient and degraded DNA samples provides significant challenges, but we are excited to bring our latest advances in genetic analysis to this and similar future projects in Egypt," said Nicola Oldroyd, a senior forensic specialist at Applied Biosystems. "Initial results are very promising as both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA have been retrieved and amplified for these mummies. That in itself is a major accomplishment for the first project in a brand new lab. We are optimistic that the Egyptian scientific team now has everything in place to ultimately be successful in this project and future endeavors."
A news conference announcing initial findings in the quest to identify Hatshepsut is scheduled for today in Cairo. Discovery Channel's SECRETS OF EGYPT'S LOST QUEEN premiers Sunday, July 15, 2007, at 9:00 PM (ET/PT).
More information is available at www.appliedbiosystems.com and www.discovery.com/lostqueen.
About Applera Corporation and Applied Biosystems
Applera Corporation consists of two operating groups. The Applied Biosystems Group serves the life-science industry and research community by developing and marketing instrument-based systems, consumables, software, and services. Customers use these tools to analyze nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), small molecules, and proteins to make scientific discoveries and develop new pharmaceuticals. Applied Biosystems' products also serve the needs of some markets outside of life science research, which we refer to as "applied markets," such as the fields of: human identity testing (forensic and paternity testing); biosecurity, which refers to products needed in response to the threat of biological terrorism and other malicious, accidental, and natural biological dangers; and quality and safety testing, for example in food and the environment. Applied Biosystems is headquartered in Foster City, CA, and reported sales of over $1.9 billion during fiscal 2006. The Celera Group is primarily a molecular diagnostics business that is using proprietary genomics and proteomics discovery platforms to identify and validate novel diagnostic markers, and is developing diagnostic products based on these markers as well as other known markers. Celera maintains a strategic alliance with Abbott for the development and commercialization of molecular, or nucleic acid-based, diagnostic products, and it is also developing new diagnostic products outside of this alliance. Through its genomics and proteomics research efforts, Celera is also discovering and validating therapeutic targets, and it is seeking strategic partnerships to develop therapeutic products based on these discovered targets. Information about Applera Corporation, including reports and other information filed by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission, is available at http://www.applera.com, or by telephoning 800.762.6923. Information about Applied Biosystems is available at http://www.appliedbiosystems.com. All information in this news release is as of the date of the release, and Applera does not undertake any duty to update this information, including any forward-looking statements, unless required by law.
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