14th January 2008

Taking Sequencing Forward

New Team to Lead DNA Sequencing at the Sanger Institute

newsequencing

Sequencing is of fundamental importance to the science of the Sanger Institute now and in the future. The new team will enhance the Institute's global role in delivery of valuable sequence data and analysis and ensure that those efforts meet the needs of the wider community.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has recently made a major investment in new DNA sequencing technology which will increase production 60-fold. The Institute today announces the appointment of a new senior management team to lead the Institute's efforts to generate DNA sequence data of value to its core programmes and to the wider biomedical research community.

Professor Julian Parkhill takes on a new role as Director of Sequencing, supported by Carol Churcher as Head of Sequencing Operations and Tony Cox as Head of Sequencing Informatics.

This key group is strengthened by the appointment of Dr Harold Swerdlow, who will take a new position as Head of Sequencing Technology. Dr Swerdlow has many years' experience in DNA sequencing technology and was more recently with Solexa.

"I am delighted to join the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at such an exciting time in its history," says Dr Swerdlow. "Like many scientists, I have watched the development of the Institute and feel that the new investment will secure the position of the Institute as a world leader in sequencing and analysis."

" I am delighted to join the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at such an exciting time in its history: there are wonderful new opportunities for DNA sequencing to uncover variants important to human disease "

Dr Harold Swerdlow

"There are wonderful new opportunities for DNA sequencing to uncover variants important to human disease and I am looking forward to the challenges of delivering on these."

Dr Swerdlow brings a wealth of experience in 'traditional' and cutting-edge methods for DNA sequencing to the Sanger Institute. He was one of the leaders in development of capillary-based methods, the foundation of genome sequencing for the past ten years. He was also Senior Director of Research for many years at Solexa, one of the leading companies in new sequencing technologies.

The Institute has also appointed Professor Julian Parkhill, Head of the Pathogen Sequencing Unit, to a new position of Director of Sequencing. Professor Parkhill's role will be to support the new management team, to give strategic direction, and to promote the important interactions between the Institute's Faculty Investigators and the sequencing group.

Carol Churcher will take a position as Head of Sequencing Operations. Mrs Churcher was among the original staff at the Institute in 1993 and is a senior manager in the Pathogen Sequencing Unit. Previously she worked at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and has more than 20 years' experience with sequencing techniques.

Dr Tony Cox will continue in his current role as Head of Sequencing Informatics, an increasingly important function as new technologies boost data production more dramatically.

Sequencing is of fundamental importance to the science of the Sanger Institute now and in the future. The new team will enhance the Institute's global role in delivery of valuable sequence data and analysis and ensure that those efforts meet the needs of the wider community.

Professor Allan Bradley, Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, says: "The strength of these appointments underlines the importance of sequencing to the Institute, and will enable us to continue to support the whole Institute with cutting-edge sequencing technologies into the future."

The Sanger Institute is already using new sequencing technology in several projects. Most recently, the Institute published in Genome Research its new-tech genome analysis of a new isolate of Chlamydia trachomatis that causes an invasive disease called lymphogranuloma vernerum (LGV). The results show that the recent isolate is almost identical to older Chlamydia isolates and not a novel, more virulent strain.

DNA sequencing has been the backbone of the Sanger Institute since its inception in 1992. Under the leadership of Dr Jane Rogers as Head of Sequencing, the Institute was driven forward to become a world-leading centre in sequencing using the Sanger method.

The Institute produced half of the sequence of the first animal genome (C. elegans) and was the leading contributor to the finished sequence of the human genome, as well as genomes of many other species. The Institute's skills in high-throughput biology are built on this legacy.

Notes to Editors

Sequencing at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's largest centres for DNA sequencing and analysis. It made the largest single contribution to the sequence of the Human Genome Project, contributed approximately 25% of the mouse genome sequence, is finishing the zebrafish genome sequence as well as making contributions to other model organism sequences, such as yeasts and the nematode C. elegans. Institute researchers have also contributed to the sequence of more that 60 finished genomes of bacterial pathogens, such as Salmonella typhi, TB, MRSA and Cdiff, as well as parasites such as those causing malaria, African trypanosomiasis and Leishmaniasis.

Investment in new-technology sequencing will dramatically increase the breadth and depth of genome analysis in humans, model organisms and pathogens.

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The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which receives the majority of its funding from the Wellcome Trust, was founded in 1992. The Institute is responsible for the completion of the sequence of approximately one-third of the human genome as well as genomes of model organisms and more than 90 pathogen genomes. In October 2006, new funding was awarded by the Wellcome Trust to exploit the wealth of genome data now available to answer important questions about health and disease.

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The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending around £500 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.

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Sanger Institute Contact Information:

Don Powell Press Officer
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Hinxton, Cambs, CB10 1SA, UK

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