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NHGRI Awards $20M in Latest Round of Next-Gen Sequencing Grants

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Human Genome Research Institute said today that it has awarded $20 million to eight research teams to fund development of new sequencing technologies under its $100,000 and $1,000 genome programs.
The awards are the latest in an initiative that NHGRI launched in 2004 to support the development of rapid DNA sequencing technologies that could help lower the cost of genome sequencing. One set of awards focuses on tools that could reduce the cost of sequencing a human genome to $100,000, and the other supports technologies that will eventually bring that cost down to $1,000.
“The ability to comprehensively sequence any person’s genome is the type of quantum leap needed to usher in an age of personalized medicine where healthcare providers can use an individual’s genetic code to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases,” said NHGRI Acting Director Alan Guttmacher in a statement.
The Near-Term Development for Genome Grants support projects that aim to sequence a human-sized genome for $100,000, approximately 100 times lower than was possible in 2004, and include improvements to technologies already developed through the program. These grant recipients include: 
  • Steven Benner of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, who will use $1.1 million over three years to apply nucleic acid analogs and enzymes that accept them to lower sequencing costs by increasing the number of reactions that are run in parallel to prepare DNA for the sequencing process.  
  • Jingyue Ju at Columbia University will receive $950,000 over two years to develop a hybrid strategy using reversible dNTP and cleavable fluorescent ddNTP terminators to improve the length and quality of DNA information produced by sequencing-by-synthesis. 
  • Mostafa Ronaghi of Illumina will use $5.1 million over three years to develop a 10-gigabase pyrosequencer. The goal is to develop a parallel format with improved equipment for detecting chemiluminescent signals.  
The $1,000 Genome grantees include: 
  • Daniel Branton and Jene Golovchenko of Harvard University, who will use $6.5 million over four years to study electronic sequencing using nanopores. The researchers want to design and optimize nanopore technology using electronic control and sensing methods that could lead to a nanopore detector chip capable of sequencing a mammalian genome in one day on one instrument.
  • Stephen Chou of Princeton University will use $920,000 over three years to develop a nanochannel that includes a nanogap detector that can identify DNA base pairs by their electrical signals and eliminate the need for amplifying or labeling DNA.
  • Marija Drndic of the University of Pennsylvania received a grant for $820,000 over three years to help enable nanopore-based DNA sequencing using nanoelectrodes to sense and manipulate molecules passing through the nanopore, and by using microfluidics to move DNA molecules to the nanopore.
  • Di Gao of the University of Pittsburgh will receive $370,000 over two years to prove the basic principles for a technology that can pull DNA strands when they are stretched by an electric field.
  • Xiaohua Huang of the University of California, San Diego, will use $2.5 million over four years to use natural DNA synthesis on amplified DNA clones to develop an instrument and protocols to improve DNA sequence quality and speed while lowering cost and to develop methods for genome assembly from short sequence reads.
  • Jiali Li of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, will receive $830,000 over three years to develop a nanopore sensing system that labels nucleotides in a way that is easy to detect in order to differentiate electrical signals among DNA bases. The goal is to determine the sequence of a piece of DNA around 1,000 base pairs using solid-state nanopores.
  • Stuart Lindsay of Arizona State University will receive $370,000 over one year to test a method using molecules that bind to DNA and signal the presence of a particular base, and which could be used in a nanopore with different binding molecules.
  • Predrag Krstic of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory will use $720,000 over two years to partner with Yale University researcher Mark Reed to develop a nanoscale device to enhance control of localization and movement of a DNA molecule, which could be used to improve manipulation of the DNA and could help lead to a lower-cost alternative to nanopore sequencing.

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