Argentina creates genomics centre

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[BUENOS AIRES] A Latin American genomics centre has opened its doors at the University of La Plata in Argentina.

The Regional Centre for Genomics Studies (CREG) has been created with a donation of US$4.6 million worth of equipment, such as DNA sequencing machines, from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry based in Goettingen.

During 2004, scientists from the University of La Plata will research regional diseases at the new centre with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute. For example, they plan to study the insect known as ‘vinchuca’, which carries the parasite that causes Chagas, a disease affecting 2.5 million people in Argentina.

In following years, scientists from the Montevideo Group of Associated Universities (AUGM) — which includes 15 institutions from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay — will also carry out research at the centre.

According to Alberto Díaz, director of the Institute for Studies and Research of the University of Quilmes, the centre demonstrates the potential of Argentina’s scientific community. “This type of agreement lets us expand our reach, get more work and funding for research, stay connected with the rest of the scientific world and still have better resources to attack local problems,” he says.

The centre will be directed by Rolando Rivera Pomar, a biochemist from the University of La Plata who has been working at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry since 1991. It was initially expected to open in 2000, after an agreement was made between the two institutions in 1998. But financial problems delayed its opening.

This year the government of the province of Buenos Aires finally transferred the 120,000 pesos (US$41,000) needed to repair an abandoned laboratory in Florencio Varela, a city near La Plata. Funds to cover more equipment and salaries will be provided by a further donation of US$10 million by the Max Planck Institute.