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BGI, U of Birmingham Create Environmental Omics Center in UK

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – BGI and the University of Birmingham have partnered to create the Joint Centre for Environmental Omics (JCEO), which will analyze the toxicity of compounds to protect health, the environment, and global biodiversity, the university said today.

The joint facility will be based at Birmingham's campus at Edgbaston, UK, and will be operated with the BGI China National GeneBank (CNGB). Lab technicians and bioinformaticians from BGI will collaborate with Birmingham scientists and international partners. They will use automated high-throughput sample processing to investigate the effects that thousands of high priority chemicals and advanced materials have on biological systems.

There are currently more than 60,000 synthetic compounds in use by industries, but there is a shortage of information about their effects on health and the environment, the university said. This center will aim to take advantage of rapid improvements in genome sequencing and computing to study the safety of these chemicals, and to help industries fulfill the requirements of European Union chemical safety legislation.

"In collaboration with industry and government scientists, the JCEO will allow the European Union and beyond to 'industrialize' knowledge for advancing regulatory science and its applications that will, in turn, lead to a unique mass-scale predictive, quick, and relatively inexpensive diagnoses of environmental health concerns," JCEO Co-director and CNGB Deputy Director Xin Zhou said in a statement.

Officials from the university and BGI signed the agreement to create the new center on July 3.

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