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HudsonAlpha Eyes Next-Gen Sequencing Equipment, Using $14M from Alabama Bond Sale

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology said it will use $14 million in proceeds from state bonds sold earlier this month toward new genome sequencing equipment and facilities.

HudsonAlpha uses a variety of sequencing equipment in various labs. The institute's Genomic Services Lab uses three sequencing platforms — the Illumina Genome Analyzer II, the Applied Biosystems SOLiD 3, and the Roche 454 Genome Sequencer FLX.

"We are looking at new next-generation Illuminas, and we continue to entertain 454s and SOLiDS. We're looking at that whole array of the new technologies that are growing in the genetics and genomics area," H. O'Neal Smitherman, HudsonAlpha's executive vice president, told GenomeWeb Daily News.

"What we're doing is enhancing the facilities here so that we continue to attract top scientists, and be able to compete for grants within this highly technical area, with the equipment and facilities that it takes to continue to do what we're doing, and to continue to grow," Smitherman said.

The lab of HudsonAlpha President and Director Rick Myers, for example, uses the Illumina GA to sequence DNA samples, according to its protocols, while a team of HudsonAlpha researchers sequenced human Tcells from one individual, using the GS FLX. According to a paper published last December in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the HudsonAlpha group used 454 to characterize the diversity of a T-cell repertoire from a healthy male, obtaining read lengths of 250 base pairs and generating 1.67 million sequence reads for eight distinct T-cell populations.

Smitherman said the new equipment to be purchased with the state bond proceeds will be for use by researchers at institutes across Alabama, and not just HudsonAlpha, whose facilities include a Genome Sequencing Center. According to its web page, the center joined with other institutions in sequencing the genome of the model grass species Brachypodium distachyon, whose small genome and quick rate of growth makes it suitable for studying more complex grasses such as wheat, barley, sorghum, rice, and switchgrass.

The project — the results of which were published in Nature last February — was carried out as part of the International Brachypodium Initiative. Its leaders include one HudsonAlpha faculty investigator, Jeremy Schmutz, and its research team includes another, Jane Grimwood.

Schmutz and Grimwood are the genome sequencing center's two faculty investigators, and two of seven principal investigators within HudsonAlpha. The others are Myers, Devin Absher, Greg Barsh, Jian Han, and Shawn Levy.

The new genome sequencing equipment is being funded through a share of the $110 million in bonds sold May 11 by the Alabama Capital Improvement Trust Fund, an investment vehicle for royalties collected from companies that extract oil or gas from offshore.

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