Research in the growing field of genomics – which could lead to a new generation of personalised medical treatments – will be boosted by an initiative that brings together scientific expertise from China and Edinburgh.
A memorandum of understanding signed between the University of Edinburgh and BGI, the world's largest genomics organisation, will aim to build on both institutions' strengths in genomics.
It will aim to enhance researchers' scientific understanding of the building blocks with which people and other living organisms are made.
The partnership will lead to an expansion of genomics research in Edinburgh, including analysing hereditary information encoded in our DNA, which could help assess risks for particular diseases.
It comes at a time of increasing interest in how better understanding of genes, through DNA sequencing facilities, will help to develop personalised medicines.
Genomics also plays an important role in looking at how livestock can be bred with resistance to diseases to help produce food sustainably for a growing global population.
The agreement between the University of Edinburgh and BGI will explore how research at three genomics facilities in Edinburgh – GenePool Genomics Facility in the School of Biological Sciences, ARK Genomics at the Roslin Institute and the Genetics Core at the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility and the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine – could be enhanced through collaboration with BGI.
As one of the world's largest genomics organisations, BGI has developed an integrative structure of research innovation, platform development and industrial application. BGI is actively building links with research leaders all over the world, with the aim of promoting the advancement of innovative biology research, molecular breeding, healthcare and related fields.
Professor Mark Blaxter, Director of the School of Biological Science's GenePool Facility, said, "This is a fantastic opportunity. Edinburgh is already a hotbed of expertise in genomics and DNA sequencing, and a partnership with BGI would allow us to expand our work into clinical research and, ultimately, personalised genomics."
Mick Watson, Director of The Roslin Institute's ARK Genomics facility, said, "Bioinformatics is a key part of the new science: the impact of genomics is limited by our ability to analyse the data, so the concept of combining our existing bioinformatics expertise with that of BGI is very exciting."
The Director of the The Roslin Institute, Professor David Hume, emphasised the importance of the initiative to the agricultural sector. He said, "Livestock genetic improvement is a key part of our response to the challenge of food security, and sequencing and informatics are crucial to future progress. This initiative will underpin Scotland's world-leading research in animal sciences."
Professor David Porteous, Director of the Genetics Core at the Edinburgh Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility and of Systems Medicine at the MRC / University of Edinburgh Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, said, "The timing is perfect. This opportunity will keep Edinburgh and Scotland at the very leading edge of all aspects of medical genomics, from rare forms of inherited disease through to major causes of ill health over the life course and in ageing. It will be a crucial bridge between our world leading academic research and the needs of the NHS."
Ning Li, Director of BGI Europe, said, "We appreciate this great opportunity to bring our extensive genomics experience in this collaboration. I believe we could make more scientific breakthroughs in human health, animal science and evolution as well as other innovative research fields."
For more information contact:
Professor Mark Blaxter, Director Edinburgh Genomics and GenePool
Tel: 0131 650 6760
Tara Womersley, Press and PR Office, University of Edinburgh
Tel: 0131 650 9836 or 07791 355 804
Bicheng Yang, Branding and Communication Division, BGI
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