An historic collaboration between the University of California Davis and China's BGI, the world’s largest genomics organization, has dramatically increased the University's genome sequencing capabilities and promises to open up altogether new research opportunities in the life sciences community with genomic studies of plants, animals, humans and microbes. The new joint endeavor is called BGI@UC Davis and will benefit both UCD and China's first citizen-managed, non-profit research institution.
An interim genome sequencing facility with 3 state-of-the-art DNA sequencing machines provided by BGI (and valued at about half a million dollars each) is already open at the imaging center on the Sacramento Campus. A new 10,000sf facility, the BGI Davis Joint Genome Center, is in the planning stages and will house 10 such machines.
[BGI-UC Davis partnership agreement is signed and celebrated in October; Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo]
BGI's US operational base (BGI-Americas) is in Cambridge, and they have entered into a partnership with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (BGI@CHOP) where sequencing is carried out in the Department of Pathology, but the joint on-campus center at UC Davis is a first in the US for BGI. Davis was chosen as the company's West Coast partner because of its strength in agricultural, environmental and biological research, along with a fully-integrated health system; the new joint genome center will initially focus on these areas:
- Food Security
- Human and animal health and wellness
- Biodiversity and environmental health
To put this advance in sequencing capabilities at UC Davis in perspective, it was only two years ago, in 2010, that an independent report of Davis' research programs found it to be behind the game in terms of genome sequencing. The outside consulting firm that wrote the report, the Washington Advisory Group, urged the University to be less "risk-averse" if it wanted to keep pace nationally and globally. [From an article in Davis Enterprise.] To quote the report, on page 4:
The campus seems to have missed the opportunity to expand programs in human genetics, genomics and other ’omics at a time of explosive growth in funding in these fields. This problem must be rectified swiftly and will require a major commitment of resources.
With the recent BGI collaboration cemented and the new facilities moving forward, UC Davis is positioned to see its genome sequencing capacity increase by a factor of 10, which could fairly be called a very successful response to that earlier constructive criticism. According to UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi in a news release:
“Together, as partners, UC Davis and BGI will be able to take on the biggest challenges in biology, medicine and the environment — right here in Sacramento.”
[Photo courtesy of UC Davis, BGI@UC Davis Partnership]
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