By Andrea Anderson
A sequencing facility being planned by BGI and the University of California, Davis, is slated to house around 10 Illumina HiSeq 2000 sequencers when it opens in Sacramento next year.
"By the time [the sequencing facility] is built out, we're shooting for 10 sequencers to start with and as demand dictates then we'll think about expanding," UC Davis population health and reproduction researcher Bart Weimer, a member of the UC Davis leadership group that helped hammer out the partnership with BGI, told In Sequence.
The 10,000-square-foot sequencing facility, which was announced last week (IS 10/25/2011), will be located on the UC Davis Health Center's Sacramento campus in an existing building that will be expanded to accommodate the BGI@UC Davis Joint Genome Center.
"We have an existing building that is shell space, so it's going to be a brand new expansion of that building," Weimer said. "It won't be a remodel, but it will be an expansion of the existing space."
The timing for that build-out is still being solidified, he said, but should take roughly six to eight months and wrap up next spring or summer.
The sequencing center will be outfitted with the HiSeq machines once the expansion is complete. Representatives from UC Davis and BGI Americas said additional sequencers may be added in the future as demand grows.
BGI and UC Davis will shoulder the initial cost to get the sequencing facility started, though the partnership plans to seek some external funding once the project gets rolling. The actual price tag for the sequencing facility is still being worked out and is largely contingent on how much it will cost to expand the physical facility.
As the permanent center is being completed, the team plans to set up a smaller, temporary sequencing space that will contain three HiSeq sequencers. Those machines are expected to be delivered and installed at UC Davis by the end of the year, Weimer said.
UC Davis does have a genome center at present, he noted, but with more than 800 life scientists on campus, the demands for that facility are outstripping its current capabilities.
"We view working with BGI as a great expansion of the capabilities that are here in a very limited supply," he said. "It will enable new projects, new collaborations, and a very large expansion of capacity for us doing more genomics."
"We're outrageously happy that we're able to partner with BGI," Weimer added. "They've got a phenomenal capability and capacity and we very much appreciate partnering with them."
From BGI's standpoint, UC Davis is an attractive research partner because it already has well regarded schools and research programs that are focused on veterinary medicine, agriculture, and medicine — all areas of interest for BGI, explained BGI Americas researcher Hao Zhang.
"If we collaborate with Davis, it's like collaborating with several schools," Zhang told IS. "Some of the universities offer very good vet schools, some offer very good medical or agricultural schools, but Davis offers them all."
UC Davis researchers are already designing studies to take advantage of the new sequencing facility. For instance, Weimer said, there are plans for plant genomics studies and studies of animal genomes and exomes, as well as some metagenomic and microbiome-focused projects.
"We've already queried a bunch of our faculty and people are starting to make libraries and get samples ready already," Weimer said.
In the near term, UC Davis researchers and their collaborators will be given priority at the BGI@UC Davis Joint Genome Center and have first crack at the new sequencing machines. Representatives from BGI Americas and UC Davis said the center may consider offering sequencing services to customers down the road if it reaches a point where it has excess sequencing capacity.
"What we have set up so far is that there's going to be [sequencing] capacity initially dedicated to faculty at Davis," Weimer said. "And then, as there's excess capacity, collaborators and third parties can fill that capacity as BGI sees fit."
"We see both models running as a way of getting faculty advanced and also as a way of getting BGI extra capacity for other projects that they have in the works as well," he added."
The center is the latest in a string of BGI expansions. Last year, the Chinese genome center opened branches in the US and Europe — and announced plans to set up a $10 million sequencing center in Copenhagen, Denmark. That center is expected to open late this year or early next year (IS 7/5/2011). BGI is also said to have long-term aspirations of expanding into Southeast Asia and Australia (IS 5/25/2010).
Joyce Peng, marketing director for BGI Americas, said BGI@UC Davis will operate largely independently of BGI Europe's Copenhagen center. "I think each will probably have a different research focus, depending on what the needs for each specifically are," she told IS, "so we're not really coordinating with [BGI] Europe."
BGI Americas has headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., but the UC Davis Genome Center will be its first physical sequencing center in the US.
Peng said BGI has plans to open additional sequencing centers within the US, but did not disclose where those facilities might be located or comment on the timeline for further expansion.
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