Quicker, cheaper DNA sequencing goal of UH profs with $4.2 million NIH grant

August 29, 2005

HOUSTON, Aug. 29, 2005 - Houston recently got a shot in the arm toward its goal of becoming the next biotech hub in the United States with a $4.2 million NIH grant awarded to VisiGen Biotechnologies, a local company created by University of Houston researchers working on a new process to sequence the human genome.

Awarded by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NHGRI "Near-Term Development for Genome Sequencing" grants are meant to support research to sequence a human-sized genome at a 100-fold lower cost than is currently possible. The initial goal is to lower the cost to of this procedure $100,000, enabling researchers to sequence genomes of potentially thousands of human subjects involved in studies to identify genes that contribute to certain common, yet complex, diseases. A more long-term goal is to cut the whole-genome sequencing cost to $1,000 that would provide for applications in routine medical care, allowing doctors to tailor diagnoses, treatments and preventative measures to in individual's unique genetic profile. Currently, it costs approximately $10 million to sequence three billion base pairs, which is the amount of DNA found in human and other mammalian genomes.

With its roots at UH, VisiGen is one of Houston's leading-edge BioNano Technology companies and holds hope for enabling new platform technologies to revolutionize biomolecular sequencing. VisiGen's research has led to the development of a new technology for direct molecular sensing that is projected to sequence an entire genome - the genetic code in a person's DNA - in less than 24 hours at a reasonable cost, thereby enabling personalized medicine. This and other developing technologies coming out of this group may soon offer physicians a quicker, more thorough way to assess genetically linked risk factors for such things as diseases and adverse drug reactions.

VisiGen's President and CEO Susan Hardin, an adjunct professor of biology and biochemistry at UH, is the principal investigator on the NHGRI project. Her UH partners at VisiGen and collaborators on this grant include James Briggs, an associate professor of biology and biochemistry, chemical engineering and chemistry; Costa Colbert, associate professor of biology and biochemistry; Xiaolian Gao, a professor of chemistry, biology and biochemistry; Michael Rea, a professor of biology and biochemistry; David Tu, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of biology and biochemistry; and Richard Willson, an associate professor of chemical engineering, biology and biochemistry.

In particular, the UH researchers at VisiGen are developing a sequencing system where polymerase (an enzyme used to synthesize DNA) and nucleotides (the molecules forming the basic modular structure of DNA's double helix) act together as direct molecular DNA base-identity sensors. The resultant interactions emit a signature detectable in real time. During the course of this three-year project, DNA samples will be processed in massively parallel arrays, working toward a goal to sequence large genomes in less than a day for approximately $1,000. VisiGen's technology will permit sufficient oversampling that will produce redundant data, thereby minimizing errors.

Developing this system will allow VisiGen researchers to identify pathogens and enable comprehensive genome analysis, with a specific aim to design, build and test the next generation single-molecule DNA sequencing instrument. Subsequently, this instrument will be used for beta testing by various Houston researchers, whose feedback will be incorporated into future phases of technology development. Such strides will eventually increase the scope and scale of research that addresses genomic contributions to such common diseases as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

For more information about UH, visit the university's Newsroom at www.uh.edu/newsroom.

To receive UH science news via e-mail, visit www.uh.edu/admin/media/sciencelist.html.

University of Houston

Related DNA Articles from Brightsurf:

A new twist on DNA origami
A team* of scientists from ASU and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) led by Hao Yan, ASU's Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, and director of the ASU Biodesign Institute's Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, has just announced the creation of a new type of meta-DNA structures that will open up the fields of optoelectronics (including information storage and encryption) as well as synthetic biology.

Solving a DNA mystery
''A watched pot never boils,'' as the saying goes, but that was not the case for UC Santa Barbara researchers watching a ''pot'' of liquids formed from DNA.

Junk DNA might be really, really useful for biocomputing
When you don't understand how things work, it's not unusual to think of them as just plain old junk.

Designing DNA from scratch: Engineering the functions of micrometer-sized DNA droplets
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have constructed ''DNA droplets'' comprising designed DNA nanostructures.

Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?
Researchers have developed a new non-invasive method to count individual fish by measuring the concentration of environmental DNA in the water, which could be applied for quantitative monitoring of aquatic ecosystems.

Zigzag DNA
How the cell organizes DNA into tightly packed chromosomes. Nature publication by Delft University of Technology and EMBL Heidelberg.

Scientists now know what DNA's chaperone looks like
Researchers have discovered the structure of the FACT protein -- a mysterious protein central to the functioning of DNA.

DNA is like everything else: it's not what you have, but how you use it
A new paradigm for reading out genetic information in DNA is described by Dr.

A new spin on DNA
For decades, researchers have chased ways to study biological machines.

From face to DNA: New method aims to improve match between DNA sample and face database
Predicting what someone's face looks like based on a DNA sample remains a hard nut to crack for science.

Read More: DNA News and DNA Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.