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Roche Donates Sequencer to Kenya-Google Partnership

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists in Nairobi, Kenya, will use a 454 Life Sciences sequencer donated by Roche as part of a partnership with Google's non-profit arm to study insect-borne pathogens that cause infectious diseases, Roche Diagnostics said today.

The Roche Genome Sequencer FLX platform will be installed at the labs of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and a regional joint venture called the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa (BecA)

The research also was made possible in part by a $5 million grant from Google.org, the search engine's philanthropic branch, to the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) that was made last year to fund studies and surveillance of insect-carried diseases.

ILRI-BecA's research will focus on insect and tick-borne viruses that frequently are the causes of emergent disease, and the researchers first will study Rift Valley Fever, a mosquito-spread disease deadly to both livestock and humans.

The researchers will survey human, livestock, and wildlife vector populations to monitor the circular transmission and maintenance of arboviruses, and will focus on RVF. They will use genomics and data management systems to study the pathogens, vectors, and hosts, and will connect the information they generate to existing knowledge.

Other partners in the project include Kenya's Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Health, and the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Department of Veterinary Services, and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, as well as Kenya Wildlife Services.

"The East African region is known as one of the major hot beds for emergence of new infectious viral agents and new strains of known viruses," ICIPE Director General Christian Borgemeister said in a statement. "The region has also experienced large epidemics of arboviral diseases, such as Rift Valley Fever, Dengue and Yellow Fever just to mention a few. Surveillance to monitor circulation of such agents is critical in informing public health decision for early warning and response."

The 454 sequencing system has been used before as a pathogen discovery tool. For example, Roche said that it was used to discover a new zoonotic arena virus responsible for a highly fatal hemorrhagic fever outbreak in South Africa.

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