ASU gets grant to develop high speed DNA sequence reader

TEMPE Ariz. Sequencing of the human genome is one of the major scientific advances of our time. But with 3 billion base pairs, initial sequencing of the human genome took 11 years and cost $1 billion to complete in 2002. Today, it costs up to $50 million to sequence 3 billion base pairs.

That may soon change as the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health, awarded a $1.7 million grant to a team of researchers led by Peter Williams, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Arizona State University.

The grant, one of two awarded to ASU in this program, is part of a round of NIH funding totaling $38 million going to several research teams to spur the development of innovative techniques to dramatically reduce the cost of DNA sequencing, a move aimed at broadening the application of genome information in medical research and health care.

Goal of the three-year ASU grant is to develop a system that can read DNA sequence up to one thousand times faster and costing only a hundredth as much as current methods. If successful, Williams said the project could lead to relatively cheap machines that can read the genome for use in research, and it could possibly bring the technology to the brink of clinical use.

Williams will be working with Sergei Aksyonov, Ian Gould and Mark Hayes of ASU; Mike Bittner of Translational Genomics Research Institute, Phoenix; Linda Reha-Krantz of the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada; and Linda Bloom of the University of Florida, Gainesville.

NHGRI's near term goal (of which Williams grant is part) is to lower the cost of sequencing a mammalian sized genome (human, chimpanzee, cow or dog, for example) to $100,000. It would enable researchers to compare different species with humans and sequence the complete genomes of hundreds or thousands of people as part of studies to identify genes that contribute to cancer, diabetes and other common diseases.


Contact: Skip Derra
Arizona State University

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