Establishment of an MRC Sequencing Hub at the GenePool, the Scottish next-generation genomics facility

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Inst of Evolutionary Biology


The reading of the DNA code in our genomes and the genomes of other organisms has revolutionised what can be done by medical researchers. While the technology to read the DNA sequence of genes was invented over 40 years ago, until recently it has been too slow and too expensive to use in many research programmes. However, in the last five years a new generation of DNA sequence readers has been invented, and these machines, working at thousands or millions the pace of the older technology, promise to let researchers use DNA sequence in more and more precise, and more and more exciting, projects.
In Scotland, the GenePool is a DNA sequencing service based in the University of Edinburgh that lets researchers throughout the region generate DNA sequences from their experiments. The GenePool has already invested in two of the new generation of sequencing instruments, and read over one hundred thousand million bases of DNA sequence (100 Gigabases - about 30 human genomes-worth) last year.
In this proposal we request funding from the UK Medical Research Council to double our ability to deliver DNA sequence to medical and biomedical researchers throughout Scotland. We will purchase two more of the current crop of ?next generation? DNA sequencing instruments, and develop a highly efficient and cost-effective centre to produce DNA data for users. We will also in the medium term buy one of the third generation of DNA sequences - output from which is likely to dwarf the new sequencing machines just as they dwarfed the old methods. We will also invest in highly trained laboratory technologists and biocomputing scientists to help users identify the important genetic information in their data.

Technical Summary

DNA sequencing lies at the heart of modern biology. As technologies have improved, we have been able to ask deeper and more precise questions, and gather answers that were undreamed of only a decade ago. Scotland has a strong record and leading expertise in high throughput DNA sequencing. In particular the GenePool, based at the University of Edinburgh, has a twelve-year record of delivery of sequencing and sequence analysis services to academic and medical researchers primarily in Scotland but also across the UK and internationally.
Here we propose that the MRC should fund a carefully managed investment in people and technology to deliver state-of-the-art service to MRC-area science. The identified research needs imply that we need to double our capacity by the end of year 1, and must plan to achieve perhaps ten-fold current capacity by year 3.
Our existing base of staff and technology permits us to start delivering proven-quality service from day one of the inception of the service. We already have critical mass. From this base we will build in additional capacity and staff to process the planned increases in demand. We will also review the available emerging technologies and install a third generation sequencing platform, and thus ensure that the GenePool delivers cutting-edge sequencing and bioinformatics capability to the MRC community beyond the timeframe of the grant.
We will have a particular focus in also delivering reach-out and training in analysis to users, to ensure that the best use is made of the data generated, and thus to build next-generation bioinformatics capacity within user institutions.
The facility will be steered by a Scientific Advisory Group and day-to-day managed by a dedicated senior Manager aided by a Management Committee drawn from users. We will move the service to a fully user-charges-supported funding model within 3 years.


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