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Comparative Genomics Natural History Museum opens new genomics lab

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Some five years ago, it was the lure of sequencing technology that drew Susan Perkins to work in the research labs at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Then a grad student at the University of Vermont where she had to pay $10 a lane for the sequence reads necessary for her studies of lizard malaria, an offer to come to the museum and use its resources for her research looked pretty good. And just last year, after three years as a faculty member at the University of Colorado, she came back to the museum — and says once again it was the technology that lured her.

Those resources are now part of a burgeoning genomics initiative at the museum, where a brand new comparative genomics facility was slated to open just last month. Comparative genomics has become "one of the main fundraising initiatives at the museum," says Perkins, assistant curator for microbial genomics.

The Institute for Comparative Genomics will house four curators plus their labs, and will include the sequencing core facility's 3730s, colony pickers, and other robotics. Perkins, Rob DeSalle, and Mark Siddall were planning to move their groups in starting last month, and another curator, probably someone who specializes in microbial research, will be recruited, Perkins says.

Once installed at the institute, Perkins will continue her work on malaria, she says. "I've been developing systems to do whole mitochondrial sequencing for malaria," the organism with what is believed to be the smallest mitochondrial genome at 6KB. Much of that development has gone into designing primers that are conserved enough to be used in the effort, which aims to look at malaria parasites across lizards and birds.

— Meredith Salisbury

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