Boston, MA, Manassas, VA, Oklahoma City, OK and Shenzhen, China -- May 2, 2012 - Representatives from BGI, the world's largest genomics organization, in conjunction with George Mason University (GMU), the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (Mass. Eye and Ear) and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC), jointly announce that they have signed an agreement to sequence 100 human adenoviruses gathered from researchers globally, including ones that cause respiratory, gastrointestinal and ocular diseases. The goal of the sequencing project is to identify the molecular basis of adenovirus evolution, including base changes and genome recombinations, and to understand the genome basis for adenovirus pathogenicity and its role in the genesis of emergent pathogens.
Human adenoviruses (HAdVs), first isolated in 1953, are DNA viruses that were initially identified as respiratory pathogens but are now known to cause a range of diseases, including ocular, gastrointestinal and metabolic disorders. Respiratory adenoviruses typically generate cold-like symptoms, aka "the uncommon cold", that can spread broadly and rapidly among a population, but normally pose low levels of fatalities. Since 1953, 67 new types of HAdVs have been isolated. Extensive genome sequence data from both newly isolated and archived HAdVs, and their accompanying bioinformatics, are leading to an in-depth understanding of the biology of HAdVs, including how novel viral pathogens appear.
Genome recombination plays an important role in the molecular evolution of HAdVs, leading to newly emerging strains as well as re-emerging pathogens that have changed or become more virulent. As an example, a recent outbreak of respiratory infections in China raised public concerns and unfounded rumors of a SARS outbreak, but genomic analysis definitively identified the outbreak as a respiratory tract infection caused by adenovirus type 55. An outbreak of Ad55 was identified earlier in China in 2006 and genomic analysis of this recent Ad55 virus revealed only 12 mutations from the 2006 strain, indicating they are from the same lineage.
"While genome mutations and recombinations of DNA viruses like HAdVs are less common than observed for RNA viruses, when they do occur, the resultant virus may be a new and different pathogen," stated Dr. Donald Seto, Professor in the School of Systems Biology at GMU. "With whole genome sequencing provided by BGI, we will be able to answer how these viruses change over time, including how fast, enabling researchers to identify emerging pathogens, develop effective treatments, including vaccines, and begin to understand how to predict pathogens."
Included among the investigators are scientists working at the School of Systems Biology at GMU, the Department of Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at OUHSC.
"We welcome this opportunity to work with this consortium and its global collaborators on the sequencing of 100 human adenoviruses," stated Yingrui Li, Vice Director of BGI. "By applying BGI's state-of-the-art whole genome sequencing and analysis to these HAdVs, we believe we will make a significant contribution to identifying the evolution of adenovirus mutations and recombinations, and to an increased understanding of the genomic basis of their disease effects in humans."
All intellectual property resulting from this project will be shared by BGI, Mass. Eye and Ear, OUHSC, GMU and their collaborators. Upon completion of the sequencing and analysis of the 100 HAdVs, the findings will be co-authored by all in a paper to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
About George Mason University
George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in a range of academic fields. Located in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Mason provides students access to diverse cultural experiences and the most sought-after internships and employers in the country. Mason offers strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering and information technology, organizational psychology, health care and visual and performing arts. With Mason professors conducting groundbreaking research in areas such as climate change, public policy and the biosciences, George Mason University is a leading example of the modern, public university. George Mason University--Where Innovation Is Tradition. For more information about Mason, please visit http://www.
About the OU Health Sciences Center
One of only four comprehensive academic health centers in the nation with seven professional colleges, the OU Health Sciences Center is a leader in education, research and patient care. OU is one of the only primary centers in the world for genome studies, with OU Health Sciences Center researchers and scientists actively engaged in sequencing a variety of microbial genomes.
About the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
Founded in 1824, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (Mass. Eye and Ear) is an independent specialty hospital providing patient care for disorders of the eye, ear, nose, throat, head and neck. Mass. Eye and Ear is an international leader in Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology research and a teaching partner of Harvard Medical School. Under the direction of Mass. Eye and Ear's board of directors, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Schepens Eye Research Institute formed the world's largest and most robust private basic and clinical ophthalmology research enterprise. For more information, call 617-523-7900 or visit http://www.
BGI was founded in Beijing, China, in 1999 with the mission to become a premiere scientific partner for the global research community. The goal of BGI is to make leading-edge genomic science highly accessible, which it achieves through its investment in infrastructure, leveraging the best available technology, economies of scale, and expert bioinformatics resources. BGI, and its affiliates, BGI Americas, headquartered in Cambridge, MA, and BGI Europe, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, have established partnerships and collaborations with leading academic and government research institutions as well as global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, supporting a variety of disease, agricultural, environmental, and related applications.
BGI research has generated more than 170 publications in top-tier journals such as Nature and Science. BGI's many accomplishments include: sequencing one percent of the human genome for the International Human Genome Project, contributing 10 percent to the International Human HapMap Project, carrying out research to combat SARS and German deadly E. coli, playing a key role in the Sino-British Chicken Genome Project, and completing the sequence of the rice genome, the silkworm genome, the first Asian diploid genome, the potato genome, and, more recently, sequencing the human Gut Metagenome, and a significant proportion of the genomes for the 1000 Genomes Project.