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September 15, 2001 (download MS Word document)

Conference on gene technology notes progressive increase in the field of gene technology 

The participants of the two-day international conference on gene technology Gene Technology Forum 2001 (www.geneforum.ee) held in the Vanemuine Concert Hall in Tartu, Estonia, emphasized the importance of success made in genome sequencing. Scientists, representatives of biotech firms and investors noted that it has enabled to significantly increase the speed of developing specific solutions in the field and created the foundation for successful implementation of the Estonian Genome Project.

The two-day international conference that was hosted by the Estonian Genome Foundation and  held from 13-15 September, focused on the possibilities that genome sequencing has opened up for gene technology. The participants were also given a comprehensive overview of the current progress in the Estonian Genome Project. A total of 400 researchers, physicians, students, healthcare officials, business executives and investors from the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Western Europe and North America participated.

According to Professor Andres Metspalu, member of the programme committee of Gene Technology Forum 2001, the conference highlighted both the interest of participants and the high level of presentations.  The key persons from academic, research and business circles discussed future trends of the gene technology in the light of know-how  obtained in the field of genome sequencing last year. "Held now for the second year, the Forum proved that this event has won international recognition among the professionals and organizations involved in biotechnology and gene technology," said Metspalu.

The keynote speaker of  the conference was Professor Klaus Lindpaintner from Roche Genetics, genetics division of F.Hoffmann-La Roche AG. Elaborating on the increasing importance of genetics on healthcare, Professor Lindpaintner explained how individual medicines that are developed due to gene technology help to reduce healthcare costs, resulting in more efficient medicines and that genome research helps to prevent the diseases earlier and in a bigger scale.

International investments in biotechnology and regulatory issues was the topic of presentation of Mr. Stanford (Ford) N. Goldman, an Attorney at Law from the USA Law Office Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C., whose expertise in the field of biotechnology is highly regarded. He said that the tragedy which shocked the U.S. during that week was not going to affect investments in biotechnology since these are long-term investments in the development fuelled by rapid technological advances. Mr Goldman added that in spite of these tragic events private equity will continue to look for profitable investment opportunities based on the projects’ intellectual value, its quality of management and human resources with expected return of value in five to six years. 

More detailed discussions at the conference focused on genetic causes of various diseases, genetics of eye and hearing diseases and gene defects in the 21st chromosome. The conference also discussed moral and legal aspects of conducting genome research as well as methods and trends in evaluation of genetic information.

Sponsors helped more than 100 students and around 200 physicians and researchers to cover the costs of participation. In addition to Pfizer H.C.P. Corporation Estonia, the main sponsor of the Gene Technology Forum 2001, the list of sponsors included the Estonian Biocentre, Tartu City Government, University of Tartu, Wellcome Trust, Embassy of the United States of America Embassy of France and the British Embassy as well as KPMG Estonia, Estonian Air and SAS.

Gene Technology Forum 2001 was organized  by the Estonian Genome Foundation, established in  1999. The Foundation specializes in organising, co-ordinating and promoting R&D activities,  training and promotional activites in the field of biotechnology.

The underlying concept of the Estonian Genome Project is to create a genotype-phenotype database of the Estonian population in next 5 years and provide broad access to the database for the purpose of performing association studies for common diseases. The project will make it possible for everyone to obtain more efficient medical assistance in the future, increasing the country's research potential and promoting the economic development of Estonia. The Estonian Genome Project is being implemented by the Estonian Genome Project Foundation that was founded in March 2001.
 

For additional information please contact:
Dr Andres Metspalu
Head of the Chair of Biotechnology, University of Tartu
Member of the Programming Committee of Gene Technology Forum 2001
Tel +372 7 375 030

Ms Maris Väli
Estonian Genome Foundation
Head of the Organizing Committee of Gene Technology Forum 2001
Tel +372 7 375 030
E-mail: mvali@ebc.ee

August 10, 2001

Enterprise Estonia grants to the pilot project of Estonian Genome Foundation a loan of EEK 4 millions

According to the loan contract concluded today, Enterprise Estonia (EAS) grants Estonian Genome Foundation (EVG) a two year loan of EEK 4 millions for preparing the Estonian Genome Project. 

Urmas Vahur, the manager of Enterprise Estonia said that Enterprise Estonia decided to grant the new project the funds from state budget as we are dealing with a very unique technological project using which Estonia could be the first state in the world to achieve any actual results in this field. 

Estonian Genome Project uses the loan for preparing the pilot project; mostly for designing IT infrastructure, establishing laboratory, depository and coding center, and developing logistics system. 

The total costs of preparing and executing the six-month pilot project of Estonian Genome Foundation are around USD 2-2,5 million, which are covered by investments both from Estonia and abroad. 

“The loan granted by Enterprise Estonia enables to develop the Estonian Genome Project. More expensive activities can be carried out after involving investments,” said the acting manager of Estonian Genome Project Krista Kruuv. 

The interest of the loan for the pilot project is 1 % and the initial temporary exemption from payments lasts for 3 years. 

The major phases of Estonian Genome Project are preparation of pilot projects, executing the pilot projects, and starting and executing the main project. 

Estonian Genome Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by the Government. The aims of this organization include developing genome studies, gathering information on health and hereditary characteristics of Estonian population and implement the results of genome studies in improving people’s health. 

The aim of Enterprise Estonia is to support the development of Estonian business via the effective and coordinated implementation of national measures. 

Additional information: 
Kristiina Tõnnisson 
The Estonian Genome Project Foundation, Head of Information 
Telephone  +372 (0)52 52 072
Email kristiina@ec.ut.ee

April 24, 2001

Estonian Genome Project Foundation Promotes the Top Science of Genome Research with the Aim to Improve the Health of Population

The main goals of the Estonian Genome Project Foundation this year are the triggering of the organisation’s work, the elaboration of the financial and legal frameworks and the starting of the Pilot Project.

At the first meeting of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Genome Project Foundation, Toomas Vilosius, MP, was elected to be the Chairman of the Supervisory Board. The Board established a Committee of Ethics to deal with the ethical aspects related to the Estonian Genome Project and the genome research. The budget and working programme for 2001 were approved at the meeting. For the execution of the financing concept of the Estonian Genome Project a public limited company EGeen was founded.

According to the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Genome Project Foundation Toomas Vilosius, it is impossible to carry out the scientific research without finances, especially on the top level. “To achieve outstanding research results in the contemporary science, in addition to the top expert level of the scientists, also the financing concepts of the project should be well established”, said Vilosius.

“The Estonian Genome Project has an internationally high-level scientific basis with top specialists, however, to realise this potential, it is necessary also to create the relevant preconditions to reach the desired results,” the member of the Management Board of the Estonian Genome Project, Professor of biotechnology Andres Metspalu added.

To carry out the Estonian Genome Project, including the Pilot Project, investments are incorporated through the public limited company EGeen that will mediate the basic financing of the project. On its establishment the limited company EGeen will be 100%- owned by the Estonian Genome Project Foundation, whereas later the shareholding of Estonian Genome Project Foundation in EGeen Ltd. will diminish alongside with the incorporation of the complementary investments.

The Estonian Genome Project Foundation is a non-profit organisation established by the Government of Estonia on March 6, 2001. The underlying concept of the Estonian Genome Project (EGP) is the creation of databases including health and gene data of the Estonian population, with the objective of carrying out genetic and health studies, in order to find the genes that cause and influence diseases. 

Additional information: 
Kristiina Tõnnisson 
The Estonian Genome Project Foundation, Head of Information 
Telephone  +372 (0)52 52 072
Email kristiina@ec.ut.ee


September 22, 2000

The Gene Technology Forum confirmed the readiness of Estonia to develop the field of gene technology 

Leading scientists in the field of gene and biotechnology, representatives of biotechnology companies and investors who participated in the international two-day Gene Technology Forum in Tartu Vanemuine concert hall, confirmed that Estonia has good preconditions for rapid development in the gene and biotechnology sphere. 

The International Gene Technology Forum, held on the 21st and 22nd of September and organised by Estonian Genome Foundation and Pärnu Conferences, gave a thorough overview of the latest developments in the field of gene technology in the world, within the context of Estonia. More than 530 scientists, doctors, students, health care officials, managers and investors from the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Western-Europe and Northern America participated in the conference. 

The keynote lectures at the forum were delivered by Professor C. Thomas Caskey, the President and CEO of Cogene Bio Tech Ventures Inc, and Former Trustee and President of the Merck Genome Research Institute (USA); Dr. Bartha Maria Knoppers, the Chairwoman of Ethical, Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Human Genome Project; and Mart Laar, the Prime Minister of Estonia. 

According to Jaanus Pikani, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Genome Centre, the conference was extremely successful, with regard to the number of participants and the high scientific level. "The first successful international gene technology forum provides us with the confidence that we have selected proper direction for moving forward in the development of the biotechnology sphere in Estonia", added Pikani. 

The international conference gave an overview of research and scientific projects with business potential, in the fields of genetics and biotechnology, in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Scandinavian countries. Separate sessions dealt with ethical and legal aspects connected with population genotyping projects and population genome research, and also the technologies of association studies and the future. During the session meant for investors, investment practice into genetics and biotechnology in Europe and Northern America, and the problems related with the financing and management of companies launching their activities in the area of bio and gene technology, were introduced.

Due to the support of the sponsors, more than 180 students had the possibility to participate in the conference free of charge, and over 200 doctors and scientists, at a reduced price. The organisation of the Gene Technology Forum was subsidised by 15 cooperation partners. The largest sponsors of the conference were Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Landwell, Microlink and Eesti Põlevkivi. 

The objective of the Estonian Genome Project, launched this year, is the creation of the world's first database of phenotype (health status) and genotype data, covering the entire population, the usage of which enables the diagnosing of diseases, the determination of the risks of falling ill and the enhancement of treatment more precisely and efficiently than earlier. The Project provides preconditions for every person to receive more efficient medical aid in the future, raises the scientific potential of Estonia and facilitates the economic development of the country. 

The Estonian Genome Foundation was established in January 1999 in Tallinn. The goals of the Foundation include the regular assessment of the population's health status and the investigation of the impact of genetic and environmental factors on the health of the people; for this reason, an extensive tissue bank is being created. The task of the Foundation is to support the research and development activities in genetic research, biotechnology and DNA diagnostics, including the development of methodology and medicament preparations for the diagnostics and treatment of cancer tumours. 

All interested persons may introduce themselves to the Estonian Genome Project on the homepage of the Estonian Genome Foundation www.geneforum.ee


September 06, 2000

Estonian Genome Project is developing in accordance with the international scientific discoveries

The leaders of the Estonian Genome Project announced today, that the project has been succesfully started in accordance with the international scientific discoveries and rapid technological development in the field of gene technology. The international cooperation possibilities of Estonia in the field of biotechnology will be discussed at the Gene Technology Forum 2000, to be held in Tartu, September 21-22. 

According to Prof. Erkki Truve, National Institute of Chemical and Biological Physics and member of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Genome Project, the determination of the primer structure of human genome, creation of transgenous organisms, the discovery of stem cells and the permission for their usage in medical research have been the major achievements in the field of gene and biotechnology during the last couple of months.

Andres Rannamäe, the member of the Management Board of the Estonian Genome Foundation (EGF), stressed the importance of making right decisions provided that Estonia wants to be proactive and benefit from futher developments. "The approval of the Human Genes Research Act and the launch of the pilot project thereafter are the most important decisions to be made in the near future" said Rannamäe.

The content and scope of the pilot project have been determined, however, further technical preparation will be required. The latter includes the international review of the project to be concluded within the next weeks. Distinguished experts in the field have agreed to cooperate in the evaluation of the project. "The completed international review of the legislation is strongly supportive indicating the professional work of our lawyers. We trust that the conceptual basis of the project will receive a positive evaluation from the international experts and based on their commets and suggestions, necessary amendments will be made in the pilot project" noted Rannamäe. 

According to Jaanus Pikani, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the EGF, the Gene Technology Forum to be held in Tartu, on September 21-22, aims at the further development of international cooperation and finding answers to the following questions: what is the current situation of biotechnology and bioinformatics in Estonia and neighbouring countries? what legal and ethical principles need to be specified? what are the main investment possibilities?

"Distinguished scientists and international experts will be participating at the forthcoming conference, the keynote lectures will be delivered by Prof. Thomas C. Caskey and Prof. Mathias Uhlen, known as the leading experts of the Northern America and Europe in the field of gene technology" said Pikani. "In addition, Dr. Bartha Maria Knoppers, Chairwoman of the Committee of Ethical, Social and Legal Issues of the Human Genome Project will present an overview of various ethical issues related to the human genome research" Pikani noted.

The Prime Minister of Estonia, Mart Laar, will represent the view of the Estonian Government on the field of gene and biotechnology in his speech to be delivered at the conference. Several other internationally recognized specialists will be speaking at the conference. For further information please visit the conference website www.geneforum.ee.

The goal of the Estonian Genome Project started this year is to create for the first time in the world databases including health and genotype data of the country's population enabling to diagnose diseases, to determine the risks to the health and to enhance treatment more accurately and efficiently than before. The project will create preconditions for every person participating in it to receive more effective treatment in future and will enhance the scientific potential of the country. 


August 30, 2000

Iceland and Estonia are going to facilitate cooperation in the field of gene technology

During his visit to Estonia, David Odsson, the Prime Minister of Iceland and the leaders of the Estonian Genome Project decided to start more intensive collaboration in the field of gene technology focusing mainly on the establishment of legal framework regulating the named area. 

According to the Prime Minister David Odsson, Iceland is ready to share their general experience in the creation of legislative basement and to offer specific advise for the further elaboration of the Human Genes Research Draft Act, based on their practice in the working out of legislation regulating the field of gene technology.

In the course of the meeting held yesterday, the Prime Minister of Iceland David Odsson and the leaders of the Estonian Genome Project Jaanus Pikani and Andres Rannamäe agreed to develop cooperation between two countries on the level of expert evaluation of the draft legislation. According to the agreement, the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs will send the Human Genes Research Draft Act to the specialists of the Ministry of Health of Iceland for further legal expertise.

Jaanus Pikani, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Genome Foundation, noted that the unique know-how and experience of Iceland in the establishment of legislative framework regulating the scope of genetic research and modern data protection systems are of great value to Estonia. "The Parliament of the Republic of Iceland passed the Law on Genetic Research on December, 1998, and since then, Iceland has demonstrated remarkable success in the implementation of the population-wide genome project based on the growing public support" Pikani said.

The goal of the Estonian Genome Project started this year is to create for the first time in the world databases including health and genotype data of the country's population enabling to diagnose diseases, to determine the risks to the health and to enhance treatment more accurately and efficiently than before.


August 08, 2000

Estonian Government approved Draft Act on Human Genome Research 

Estonian Government approved today the Draft Act on Human Genome Research and sent the draft to the Parliament. 

The draft act is aimed at the regulation of the scientific research of human genome, the creation and storage of the health databases of the Estonian population, the insurance of the basic right of a gene donor to maintain his or her privacy and the elimination of the misuse of genetic information in everyday life. 

The respective work team formed for the preparation of the legislation platform for the Estonian Genome Project consisted of the representatives of all the subprojects, members of the project Ethical Committee and specialists in various areas both from public and private institutions. 

"We have followed the international experience, the conventions on human rights and the acts regulating the field of medical ethics of the European Union and European Council in the development of the respective draft act" said Jüri Raidla, the head of the work team and Attorney at Law of the Lawyer's Office Raidla & Partners. "The draft act is based on the principle that the scientific research should be ethical respecting the basic freedom and privacy of a man, however, the freedom of scientific research should be ensured proceeded from the freedom of the development of act of thought," noted Raidla. 

According to the member of the board of the Estonian Genome Centre Foundation Andres Rannamäe, the draft act forms an essential basis for the creation and functioning of the legal space required for the carrying out of the Estonian Genome Project. "The legislative basis can be considered one of the prerequisites for the successful implementation of the project. Due to the novelty of the field of human genome research in the world, we are still seeking answers to a number of questions that should be addressed in the process of the further discussions of the draft act," said Rannamäe.


June 26, 2000

International news released today concerning the completion of the draft of the master blueprint of a human being is one of the essential prerequisites in order to carry out the Estonian Genome Project successfully 

Representatives of the Public Human Genome Project announced today on the press-conference in London that after 10 years of work 90% of nucleotide sequence of human genome has been determined. Joint announcement of the Human Genome Project and the US company Celera Genomics will be made from the White House in Washington this evening. 

Andres Metspalu, one of the initiators of the Estonian Genome Project, the Professor of Biotechnology of the University of Tartu says that determination of primary structure or nucleotide (A, C, G and T) sequence of human genome will give an opportunity for the genome researchers all over the world to identify new genes and to specify their functions. The next step would be finding the differences in genes on the level of primary structure or nucleotide sequence that are responsible for determining why people are so different in their abilities as well as in their risk of catching a disease. 

Nevertheless, today's news shows the acceleration of development in the areas of gene and biotechnology. "Estonian Genome Project can be a success in the world only if we act faster and better than our competitors", Metspalu said. 

The main objective of the Estonian Genome Project started this year is to create for the first time in the world databases including health and genotype data of the country's population, enabling to diagnose diseases, determine the risks to the health and enhance treatment, more accurately and efficiently than before. The project prepares for more efficient health care provided to all persons in the future, increases Estonian scientific potential and favours the country's economic development. 

The Estonian Genome Centre Foundation was founded in January 1999, in Tallinn. The goals of the foundation include the regular assessment of the population's health condition and the investigation of the impact of genetic and environmental factors on the health of the people, for this reason, an extensive tissue bank should be created. The task of the foundation is to support the research and development activities in genetic research, biotechnology and DNA diagnostics, including the development of methodology and medicaments for the diagnostics and treatment of cancer tumours. 


June 12, 2000

Estonian Genome Centre Foundation transferred to the Ministry of Social Affairs the Estonian Genome Project 

Today, Estonian Genome Centre Foundation transferred to the Ministry of Social Affairs the Estonian Genome Project. The goal of the project is to create for the first time in the world databases including health and genotype data of the country's population, enabling to diagnose diseases, determine the risks to the health and enhance treatment, more accurately and efficiently than before. 

According to Andres Metspalu, the Professor of Biotechnology of the University of Tartu, and one of the initiators of the Estonian Genome Project, the Genome Project that has been prepared in co-operation of the specialists of many fields gives Estonia a possibility to participate in the development of top-level medicine. "The project prepares for more efficient health care provided to all persons in the future, increases Estonian scientific potential and favours the country's economic development", said Metspalu. 

The Genome Project has been developed according to an agreement between Estonian Genome Centre Foundation and the Ministry of Social Affairs. International experience and the legal acts on ethics of medicine of the European Union and the European Council have been taken into account at developing the project and legislation associated with it. The preparatory draft Act of Human Genome Research has received positive feedback from several internationally recognised experts. 

According to Andres Metspalu the results of gene analysis are kept strictly confidential and will be used only impersonally. "In our activity, we would be guided by Personal Data Protection Act, keeping the gene data and personal data separated, which would be guaranteed by using modern information technology and data protection systems" said Metspalu. He added that participation in the project is voluntary and each person can make his or her choice after examining the project. 


April 11, 2000

Estonian Genome Centre Foundation introduced the Principles of the Draft Act on Human Genome Research 

Estonian Genome Centre Foundation presented to the Ministry of Social Affairs the Principles of the Draft Act on Human Genome Research. The respective work team formed for the preparation of the legislation platform for the Estonian Genome Project consisted of the representatives of all the subprojects, members of the project Ethical Committee and specialists in various areas both from public and private institutions. The members of the work team and the Ministry of Social Affairs will continue the further development and elaboration of the draft act. 

"We have followed the international experience, the conventions on human rights and the acts regulating the field of medical ethics of the European Union and European Council in the development of the respective draft act" said Jüri Raidla, the head of the work team and Attorney at Law of the Lawyer's Office Raidla & Partners. "The draft act in preparation is based on the principle that the scientific research should be ethical respecting the basic freedom and privacy of a man, however, the freedom of scientific research should be ensured proceeded from the freedom of the development of act of thought" noted Raidla. 

According to the member of the board of the Estonian Genome Centre Foundation Andres Rannamäe, the draft act in preparation forms an essential basis for the creation and functioning of the legal space required for the carrying out of the Estonian Genome Project. "The legislative basis can be considered one of the prerequisites for the successful implementation of the project. Due to the novelty of the field of human genome research in the world, we are still seeking answers to a number of questions that should be addressed in the process of the further discussions of the draft act," said Rannamäe. 

The draft act in preparation is aimed at the regulation of the scientific research of human genome, the creation and storage of the health databases of the Estonian population, the insurance of the basic right of a gene donor to maintain his or her privacy and the elimination of the misuse of genetic information in everyday life.


March 8, 2000

The Estonian Genome Centre Foundation concluded an agreement for the working development of the Estonian Genome Project

The Estonian Genome Centre Foundation and the Ministry of Social Affairs concluded an agreement, according to which the Ministry will finance for specific purposes the elaboration of the Human Estonian Genome Project by the amount of two million Estonian kroons. 

By the agreement, during the preparatory phase, the focus is on the shaping of legislation and the working out of general principles for the Estonian Genome Project. For the achievement of this goal, six working groups have been formed within the project responsible for submitting concrete subprojects with conceived activity plans concerning the relevant area by the end of the first half of this year. The signatories of the agreement were Andres Rannamäe, the member of the Management Board of the Estonian Genome Centre Foundation and Hannes Danilov, Chancellor of the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs. 

According to the board member of the Estonian Genome Centre Foundation, Andres Rannamäe, the Estonian Genome Project is primarily the creation of a unique database, the usage of which enables the diagnosis of diseases, the determination of the risks of falling ill and the enhancement of treatment, more effectively and accurately than before. "The database will be the source of information in the discovery of new genes, in the creation of the new generation, that is the so-called personal medicines and it will be an impetus for the establishment of new gene and information technology companies in Estonia", said Rannamäe. 

The Estonian Genome Centre Foundation was founded in January 1999, in Tallinn. The goals of the foundation include the regular assessment of the population's health condition and the investigation of the impact of genetic and environmental factors on the health of the people, for this reason, an extensive tissue bank should be created. The task of the foundation is to support the research and development activities in genetic research, biotechnology and DNA diagnostics, including the development of methodology and medicaments for the diagnostics and treatment of cancer tumours. 

The activities of the Estonian Genome Centre Foundation are administered by a seven- member Supervisory Board, lead by Jaanus Pikani, also the chairman of the board of the Tartu University Clinics Foundation.


For further information please contact:

Andres Rannamäe
Member of the Management Board Estonian Genome Foundation
Tel: +372 7 375030 

Jaanus Pikani 
Chairman of the Supervisory Board Estonian Genome Foundation 
Tel: +372 7 375030 

Email: estgenomics@ebc.ee

 
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