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NHGRI Gives $18M to Next-Gen Sequencing Grant Winners

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Human Genome Research Institute has awarded $18 million in new grants to 10 scientists who are developing next-generation sequencing technologies such as polony sequencing, microfluidics, nanopores, single-molecule sequencing, arrays, and others, NHGRI said today.

The Revolutionary Genome Sequencing Technologies grants are aimed at funding new technologies that will lower the cost and quicken the speed of DNA sequencing so that these tools can be used in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as in biomedical research.

"NHGRI and its grantees have made significant progress toward the goal of developing DNA sequencing technologies to sequence a human genome for $1,000 or less," Eric Green, director at NHGRI, said in a statement. "However, we must continue to support and encourage innovative approaches that hold the most promise for advancing our knowledge of human health and disease."

Although the cost of sequencing complete human genomes has tumbled to under $40,000, the institute is striving to help advance such sequencing projects far enough to bring the cost down to $1,000 or less.

This round of grants includes funding for sequencing and analysis strategies that incorporate new biochemistry, physics, and engineering technologies.

"Next-generation sequencing technologies used in laboratories today have allowed significant advances in the scale and scope of biological research," said Jeffery Schloss, NHGRI's program director for technology development. "Still, there are other improvements that remain to be made before such sequencing tools can be used routinely in the laboratory and clinic."

Among the grant winners:

• Researchers at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center landed a roughly $2.8 million grant to use polony genome sequencing to generate raw data to re-sequence a human genome in one week for under $1,000. The group will seek to increase polony sequencing read length, increase read density, and extend its software capabilities.

• GnuBio received a $240,000 grant to use droplet-based microfluidics to sequence DNA. GnuBio aims to limit the amount of reagents necessary to sequence DNA to less than seven milliliters and to describe a platform and resequencing method that will be developed further in a later research phase.

• Caerus Molecular Diagnostics reeled in a $500,000 grant to use label-free Millikan sequencing for de novo sequencing of mammalian genomes. The firm plans to demonstrate the ability to sequence DNA using a single tethered thread and to develop a plan to simultaneously detect large bead arrays for high-throughput analysis.

• Scripps Research Institute scientists were awarded a $5.2 million grant to work with the University of Oxford and Boston University to integrate nanopore sequencing into a high-speed sequencer. The researchers will use nanopores to refine base recognition, to achieve control of strand translocation for nonenzymatic DNA sequencing, and to control DNA movement enzymatically using DNA polymerase.

• Intelligent Bio-Systems netted a $2.6 million grant to continue work focused on the generation a low-cost, high-speed sequencing system that combines novel chip-making techniques with synthetic chemistry technology licensed from Columbia University. The company will continue work on the system and will sequence and re-sequence an E. coli genome.

• The University of California, San Diego, received an $803,000 grant to use NDA polymerases to develop a method for direct real-time sequencing of single DNA molecules using negative nucleotides.

• Arizona State University will use an $868,000 award to identify improvements needed to increase readout efficiency and to develop criteria for use in a nanopore sequencing system that uses tunneling electrodes. The reagents ASU develops during this research will be made available to other researchers developing nanopore sequencers using electron tunneling as the readout.

• Boston University won $4.2 million to develop the use of single molecule sequencing by nanopore-induced photon emission (SNIPE). BU will work with the University of Massachusetts Medical School to optimize its Circular DNA Conversion approach and to develop data analysis algorithms needed for base calling, consensus building, sequence assembly, and error proofing.

• The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, won an $804,000 grant to study the challenges facing development of next-generation sequencing. The research will focus on the role of hybridization in translocation of the a-hemolysin, MspA, and solid-state pores, on enzyme-modulated DNA translocation through channels, and on control of capture rate and translocation rate of DNA in protein channels and solid-state nanopores. The studies will combine statistical mechanics theory, computer simulations, and numerical computation to address factors involved in DNA translocation.

• The University of California, Berkeley, reeled in a $436,000 grant to conduct proof-of-concept research using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. The goal of the research is to use NMR spectroscopy using individual DNA bases and DNA strands, and sequencing will use transmission electron microscopy. Success in those efforts will enable base-selective labeling of DNA with metal atoms, which could potentially be used to develop high-speed and low-cost sequencing technologies.

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