Virginia Bioinformatics Institute Unveils New Genomic Research Lab
Virginia Tech has opened the doors to a new breed of genomics laboratory, the Genomics Research Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. Providing a spectrum of services, the lab offers cutting-edge DNA sequencing equipment, project design assistance, analysis of results, and training in genomic analysis. The laboratory’s powerful, high-output equipment and staff bioinformaticians who help interpret the data, can sequence an entire human genome – three billion pairs of genes – in a day.
“I can’t think of anything that will have a greater effect on people’s lives than having the ability to sequence the human genome quickly and cheaply. We want to be at the forefront of that, analyzing and drawing real value out of genomic information,” said Stanley Hefta, the institute’s director of strategic planning and business development.
Among the many services the Genomic Research Laboratory will provide to users are upgrades in the laboratory’s ability to analyze genomic information and state-of-the-art Illumina HiSeq and MiSeq technology. These systems can produce valuable genomic information within eight hours or less of input, depending on researcher needs. The institute’s staff bioinformaticians are available to help interpret and reduce the data to results and biological insights.
“With these new instruments we have solidly shifted the focus from acquiring the data — that’s the easy part — to interpreting and extracting knowledge from the data. That’s the hard part,” said Robert Settlage, director of bioinformatics.
The institute’s current core laboratory facility works closely with life science customers worldwide in industry and education, including more than 105 laboratories on campus. Primary users at Virginia Tech include the departments of plant pathology and weed sciences, forestry, animal and poultry sciences, biological sciences, biochemistry, and researchers at the institute.
Significant technology upgrades often prove that investing in newer technology can be the key to gaining funding and visibility for research. Noted Hefta, “When Virginia Tech brought together a consortium of universities including Michigan State, Roslin Institute, Utah State, and the University of Minnesota to sequence the turkey genome, the large U.S. Department of Agriculture grant that funded the research was awarded in part because the institute possessed the necessary sophisticated instrumentation. Many papers and collaborations, including grant submissions, resulted from the wisdom of making the investment in the best equipment. It is our highest priority to offer researchers at Virginia Tech access to best-in-class genomic research instrumentation and analysis.”