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Roche Applied Sciences Awards Two 10 Gigabase Sequencing Grants

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Roche Applied Sciences announced today that it is awarding two 10 Gigabase genome sequencing grants — one to a North American research team and another to a group of researchers in Europe.

The North American award is going to researchers from Emory University, the University of Wisconsin, and Washington University who plan to sequence leaf-cutter ant genomes, along with the genomes of associated fungi and bacteria.

UW-Madison researcher Cameron Currie, Emory University researcher Nicole Gerardo, and Washington University researcher George Weinstock are leading the team, which also involves researchers from the US Department of Energy Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, and Washington University's Genome Sequencing Center, as well as other UW-Madison and Emory investigators.

Researchers have long been interested in the symbiotic relationship between leaf-cutter ants and their associated fungi and bacteria. By sequencing these organisms, the team hopes to tease apart the genetic interactions behind this symbiosis and co-evolution and gain insights into the microbial enzymes involved in helping ants convert cellulose — an inedible material for most organisms — to fuel.

Meanwhile in Europe, a 10G grant has been awarded to a team of researchers from the Swiss Tropical Institute and the University of Glasgow who are studying a sub-species of Trypanosoma brucei that causes African sleeping sickness, a sometimes fatal disease usually found in sub-Saharan Africa. Their sequencing project is aimed at identifying mutations and genetic variations in T. brucei that are linked to disease and drug resistance.

"The data generated with the 10GB Grant Program will take us closer to developing DNA-based tests for the diagnostics of drug resistance in sleeping sickness," Swiss Tropical Institute researcher Pascal Maser, who is leading the project with University of Glasgow researcher Harry de Koning, said in a statement.

Roche's 10GB Grant Program supports researchers, institutions, or companies undertaking DNA or transcriptome sequencing studies. Each of the winning teams will receive up to 10 gigabases of sequencing on the Roche 454 Genome Sequencer FLX system. Applications for the awards were reviewed by a team of external scientific reviewers from a broad range of disciplines, according to Roche, which said it received a "record number of registrants" for this year's grant program.

"While one winning team will use the sequencing to deepen our understanding of one of the oldest and most complex symbiotic relationships described in nature, another will use the technology towards possible treatment improvements for a fatal human disease in the future," Roche 454 Life Sciences President and CEO Chris McLeod said in a statement.

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