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Further MRC investment in high throughput sequencing

24 June 2009

The MRC is pleased to announce an additional investment in high-throughput sequencing that will bring funding of hubs for high-throughput sequencing to more than £9 million. The new hub will be based in Oxford and adds to the previously announced hubs in Scotland, the North of England and the East of England.

The MRC funding will build on existing sequencing resources and expertise to create centres of excellence and provide sequencing services to the genetics and genomics research communities. This additional funding has been made available following the high level of demand for access to this technology from the research community.

This substantial investment by Strategy Board is supporting basic science and allowing scientists access some of the cutting-edge equipment that enables the UK to retain its world-leading position. The investment also provides for MRC funded technical support and bioinformatics expertise to allow researchers to make the most of the rapid advances in high throughput sequencing technology.

Details of the four hubs

Oxford: University of Oxford, MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, MRC Functional Genomics Unit, MRC Molecular Haematology Unit, MRC Human Immunology Unit, MRC Mary Lyon Centre, NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust

The Oxford hub is based at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and will build on the existing capacity at the Oxford High-throughput Sequencing Centre for local users to create a resource that can be accessed by a wider pool of MRC researchers. Initial activities of the hub include: human and mouse genetics research, pathogen genetics and surveillance, translational research and technology development, as well as the associated bioinformatics and statistical genetics.

Scotland: GenePool, the Scottish next-generation genomics facility: University of Edinburgh, University of Dundee, MRC Human Genetics Unit (Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine), University of Glasgow, University of Aberdeen, The Roslin Institute of the University of Edinburgh.

The Scottish Hub is based at the GenePool, the University of Edinburgh’s next generation sequencing and genomics facility. MRC funding will build on the existing capacity of the GenePool so that service can be delivered to the wide range of biomedical investigators in the Scottish research sector. The GenePool will deliver service to groups investigating the genetics of cardiovascular disease, psychiatric disorders and cancer, and support major research groups examining the genetics of early development and the pathology and epidemiology of infectious diseases. Importantly, the Scottish MRC Hub award will also seed the establishment, in the five partner Universities and centres, of research bioinformatics positions whose role will be to assist investigators in the analysis of the torrents of new data that will be produced.

North of England: University of Liverpool, University of Sheffield, University of Manchester and University of Lancaster.

Individuals vary from each other in their disease susceptibility or in the way that they respond to treatment. Fortunately, new instruments are now becoming available which can sequence a human in just a few weeks for approx £10-50,000. The North of England has substantial amounts of leading medical and clinical research based in major Universities and NHS Trusts, all of which would benefit greatly from access to second generation (2G) DNA sequencing technology, particularly in meeting the challenges of tumour sequencing, genetic susceptibility and personalised medicine. The Advanced Genomics Facility (AGF), located in Liverpool, is a leading UK centre of excellence and service provider for the new generation of sequencing technologies. The North of England hub will expand the capacity of the AGF to serve the research leaders in Universities and hospitals of the North of England by offering a one-stop shop that provides advice for all stages of the work. We shall also provide training and pump-prime cost-sharing programmes helping client groups to turn DNA sequence into knowledge.

East of England: University of Cambridge, European Bioinformatics Institute, Babraham Institute, NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre.

Since the completion of the Human Genome Project advances in genomic sequencing have led to a dramatic fall in time taken and cost to produce very large scale sequence-based datasets. Cambridge University has a long and productive history in both the development and application of DNA sequencing technologies. The creation of the Eastern Sequencing and Informatics Hub will enable researchers working in our region to utilise a crucial 21st-century research process in their studies. In collaboration with the nearby European Bioinformatics Institute, an international centre for sequence data analysis, the Hub will provide researchers with access to all the tools required to analyse these complicated datsets. The Hub, based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, has a research development and strategic aim to apply HTS to routine medical diagnostic uses, in particular in HLA typing in transplantation and cord blood stem cells, prenatal diagnosis, and re-sequencing of disease genes (e.g. BRCA genes) in collaboration with the National Blood Service and NHS Regional Clinical Genetics Services.

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