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Seoul National University Opens Genome Center for 'Asian 100 Genome Project'

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This article, originally published July 8, has been updated with additional information from GMI-SNU.

By Julia Karow

The Genomic Medicine Institute at Seoul National University opened a genome center last month that will provide sequencing capacity for a large-scale human genome sequencing project, dubbed the "Asian 100 Genome Project," GMI-SNU said last week.

The facility, called the Asian Genome Center, is funded with $30 million. Half of the funding is from public sources, such as non-profit organization and the government, the other half from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, including Korean service provider Macrogen and Green Cross, a Korean biopharmaceutical firm that specializes in vaccine manufacturing, according to Jeong-Sun Seo, the project leader.

The center is currently equipped with eight Illumina Genome Analyzer IIx instruments and three Applied Biosystems SOLiD sequencers, enough capacity to sequence up to 50 individuals per year, according to the institute.

For the Asian Genome Project, which aims to establish an Asian-specific genome database, researchers at the center plan to sequence 100 individuals from across Asia • 10 by the end of this year, the remaining 90 by 2012, Seo told In Sequence this week.

The project grew out of a population genetic study called Gene Discovery for Complex Traits in Asians of Northeast, called GENDISCAN, that has been studying isolated tribes in remote regions of Mongolia since 2003 and has so far discovered about 100 disease candidate genes for Asians. For the Asian Genome Project, the researchers hope to analyze at least two individuals from several Asian countries, including Northern and Southern Asia, in order to "establish personalized medicine for all Asian populations," Seo said by e-mail.

Last week, he and his colleagues published the genome sequence of the first study participant, an anonymous Korean man (see other article in this issue). In March, they completed the sequence analysis of a second genome, of a Korean woman, and plan to submit the results for publication next month.

The center is the first "to focus exclusively on analysis of the human genome and its clinical implications," according to the institute, which plans to collaborate with Stephen Kingsmore at the National Center for Genome Resources in New Mexico, George Church and Charles Lee at Harvard Medical School, and other experts.

Seo said the center will initially concentrate on human genome sequence analyses and later focus on personalized medicine, "based on the accumulated genome information."

GMI-SNU claims the center is the largest genome center in Asia after the Beijing Genome Institute. In April, BGI said it was going to increase its fleet of Illumina GAs to 29, and as of last fall, it also had three Roche/454 GS FLX and two ABI SOLiD systems installed (see In Sequence 4/21/2009).

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