State-Of-The-Art Equipment and Strategic Faculty Recruits Put VCU at Forefront of Genomic Research
University Public Affairs
for the Study of Biological Complexity at Virginia Commonwealth University has augmented
its high throughput genomics capabilities with the acquisition of two pieces of
equipment that reduce the amount of time it takes to sequence a genome from
years to weeks, and in some cases, days.
sequencing capabilities, combined with the ongoing genomics research in VCU's
biomedical research laboratories and the recent recruitment of two high-profile
genomic scientists from Harvard University and the University of California at Los Angeles, are in step with VCU's strategic priority
to achieve continued recognition as a top research institution.
The 454 GS
FLX instrument from Roche provides more than 100 million bases of sequence in
an eight-hour run, a greater than 100-fold improvement over existing
technology. The Solexa 1G Genetic Analyzer will provide more than a billion
bases of sequence per run, a 1,000-fold enhancement over current technology.
combination of the equipment will reduce the cost of genome sequencing to a
fraction of the cost of previous sequencing projects, said Gregory A. Buck, Ph.D.,
director of the CSBC in VCU Life Sciences.
four years and more than $2 million on our recent sequence of the 10-megabase Cryptosporidium hominis genome," Buck
said. "With the new instrumentation, we could reproduce that effort in two
weeks for a cost well south of $100,000."
C. hominis is an important intestinal parasite
and a CDC-rated potential agent of biological terrorism. Buck's sequencing
team, together with the lab of Francis L. Macrina, Ph.D.; VCU's vice president
for research, also recently published
the sequence of Streptococcus sanguinis,
an oral pathogen and major cause of bacterial endocarditis.
new technology, we could have finished that sequence in a single day," Buck
to Buck and Macrina, an interdisciplinary group of researchers at VCU plans to
use the sequencer for projects ranging from metagenomic analysis of
environmental samples to resequencing human chromosomes to identify genes
associated with complex human diseases.
said VCU is poised to make great strides in the field.
been a leader in genomic research," he said. "The $1,000 genome and
personalized medicine are just around the corner, and VCU will be there when it
happens." The $1,000 genome is the new "holy grail" for genomic scientists
since the X PRIZE Foundation announced a $10 million cash prize for the first
privately financed team to accurately sequence the human genome for less than
$1,000 in fewer than 10 days.
toward pre-eminence in genomic research also includes the recruitment of Yuan
Gao, Ph.D., from Harvard, where he had been working with George Church on 2nd
generation sequencing technologies, and Maria C. Rivera, Ph.D., from UCLA,
where she worked with noted evolutionary biologist James Lake. Rivera's groundbreaking work
focuses on applying comparative genomics leading to the proposal of a "Ring of
Life" as an alternative to the traditional "Tree of Life."
lab will host the Solexa machine and use it for high throughput genome
sequencing, gene expression profiling and Personal Genome Project, in
collaboration with Church's lab at Harvard.
Rivera will use the technology to confirm and extend her controversial
new theory on the origin of eukaryotes. Their work reflects the
multidisciplinary aspect of Life Sciences, as they also have appointments in
the VCU School of Engineering and its College of Humanities and Sciences.
Life Sciences is all about systems biology," said Thomas F. Huff, Ph.D., vice provost
for VCU Life Sciences, the home of the Center for the Study of Biological
Complexity. "High throughput sequencing is the breakthrough technology that led
molecular and cellular biologists into systems biology."
for the Study of Biological Complexity is a matrix academic unit of VCU Life
Sciences. The Center focuses on integrative discovery science, systems biology,
and the principles of complexity to address the challenges of the life sciences
revolution of the 21st century. Nearly 100 VCU faculty members in more than a
dozen departments and five schools and colleges are fellows. The CSBC maintains
research infrastructure for the support of genomics, transcriptomics, and
proteomics, and houses VCU's high performance computing and bioinformatics
- About VCU and the VCU Medical Center
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 223 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.