Albuquerque, NM – September 17, 2013
Dr. Jeremy Edwards, a Professor in the Departments of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and Chemical & Nuclear Engineering and Co-Director of the New Mexico Spatiotemporal Modeling Center and the Keck-UNM Genomics Resource Facility at the UNM Health Sciences Center, has been awarded a $1.35 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop his genomic sequencing technologies. Dr. Edwards has developed a novel scaffolding technique that produces an ultra-long DNA read from short DNA sequence reads that define the location of the short reads in the genome, giving more detailed and complete information about a genome. To read more about Dr. Edwards research, see the Sept. 17th article by Chloe Henson from DailyLobo.com, reprinted below.
Lobo Spotlight: Jeremy Edwards
Jeremy Edwards has worked at UNM for eight years — his next three will be spent mapping the human genome.
Edwards, a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the UNM Cancer Center, won a grant for his upcoming research earlier this month from the National Institutes of Health to develop technology to further sequence the human genome.
According to a press release from Newswire, the grant is for $1.35 million over three years.
Edwards said the goal of his research differs from genome sequencing goals in the past. He said while previous research aimed to make genome sequencing cheaper, he now aims to provide more detailed maps of the human genome.
“What we decided to do was not develop new technology that’s faster and cheaper and try to go from a $2,000 genome to $1,000 genome and $100 genome,” he said. “We decided to stop working in that direction, but instead start developing technology that would provide more detailed information about the genome.”
Current technologies take a genome and break it into little tiny pieces, sequence them, and try to put them back together, Edwards said. But he said there are “lots of regions of the genome,” and some of the small sequences can be almost identical. This makes it difficult to determine where the genome sequences came from, he said.
Edwards said higher quality mapping of the human genome will be important when patients with diseases, such as cancer, consider what medical treatment to receive.
UNM applied for the grant because of its “history of excellence in developing these new types of technologies,” Edwards said. He said a lot of the grant money will go toward hiring researchers, but some will also go toward buying supplies to do the work.
Edwards said the work funded by this grant seeks to develop technology that will potentially complete the human genome.
“I hope our technology could eventually be used to finish the genome,” he said. “Most people think the human genome is complete, there are actually quite a few holes in the genome that have never been sequenced.”
According to the Newswire release, a full human genome could enable doctors to identify why people with certain genetic mutations contract diseases while others do not.
UNM uses a proton genome sequencer to help with mapping the human genome, Edwards said. He said the sequencer, which is commercially available, “chops (the genome) into little bitty places and sticks it in the machine, and it’ll sequence all these little bitty pieces.”
Edwards said the sequencer cost about $200,000 to purchase and $100,000 a year to maintain. He said this sequencer is cheaper than others on the market, which cost close to $1 million.
The technology being developed at UNM will work on any type of machine that sequences genomes, Edwards said. He said the new technology will put the little sequences together more effectively.
Still, Edwards said the end goal of the research is to make genome references for each individuals’ genomes.
“Our goal is not really to establish a new reference, our goal is really to develop the technology that will allow all this to happen,” he said. “Our goal is really to have the technology working, to disseminate the technology to the community in general, so that all genomes that are done in the future will be done using our approaches.”
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