High-throughput sequencing hubs

MRC support facilitated the establishment of three high-throughput sequencing hubs with associated technical and bioinformatics support. The investments provide access to cutting-edge equipment and dedicated technical and bioinformatics expertise to allow biomedical and clinical researchers to fully realise the potential of these approaches.

All Hubs are open to all requests from UK researchers for use of their facilities and expertise. MRC’s preferred organisations for sequencing research are the MRC hubs and where local facilities are not available, we expect researchers that are seeking, or in receipt of, MRC support to access services through the hubs in the first instance.

Services offered

The hubs were originally established to support small and medium sized projects, but are now in a position to also support large-scale projects (e.g. de novo whole genome sequencing). The hubs are designed to:

  1. Provide scientific, technical and bioinformatics expertise and capacity in the application of high-throughput sequencing approaches relating to
  • the initial design of experiments
  • application of the techniques
  • sample preparation
  • management, storage and analysis of the resulting data
  1. Offer support/advice to the local/wider scientific and clinical research communities.

Financing access to the hubs

There is no special MRC fund or assessment procedure for applications that wish to utilise the high-throughput sequencing facilities within the hubs. The hubs function through a cost-recovery business model and applicants seeking access and support through this resource should include these service costs in grant applications (to MRC or other funders) or cover costs from existing funding. Applicants requesting grant support to use the hub resource should have liaised with the relevant hub manager in advance and be able to confirm within the application that the necessary access and support will be available.

Frequently asked questions

My institution has a sequencer; can I apply for funding to use this rather than the hub facilities?

The MRC will wish to understand, in instances where other ‘service providers’ are proposed, the reasons and justification behind this. However, we appreciate that many Institutions already have existing local equipment and expertise that they will wish to utilise. In instances where new equipment is requested the justification for this will be considered extremely carefully by the Board/Panel, please see below.

I want to apply for a high-throughput sequencing system via a collaborative grant but outside a specialised hub, is this possible?

This investment does not preclude the request for individual high-throughput sequencing machines outside the hubs via collaborative grants where appropriate (for example via a Partnership Grant). However, hubs are expected to add value in the areas of technical expertise and bioinformatics knowledge, therefore, clear justification for placing an high-throughput sequencing system elsewhere and evidence of access to sufficient technical and bioinformatics expertise will be required. This justification would need to demonstrate that the groups could fully utilise the capacity offered by the system and the equipment should be run alongside other local sequencing machines wherever possible.

Wouldn’t the MRC prefer me to use the cheapest service provider?

No. Whilst there may be other providers that offer a cheaper service, we would expect the Hubs to provide a higher-end service that would justify potentially higher premiums (e.g. expert input at the project development stage and analysis stage) and provide better value for money.

What do I do if I want to use my local hub but they are at full capacity?

If local facilities are not available then applicants should seek support from other Hubs. There may also be a case for enhancing/upgrading the capability of existing Hubs (or perhaps other facilities), although in most instances the Hubs are expected to manage sustainability and necessary upgrades as part of their cost recover business models. Where there is a significant need for supplementary funding, an application from the Hub (or facility) should be submitted through the Partnership Grant route.