12 April 2013

Sanger Institute–EBI Single Cell Genomics Centre

New centre to provide a whole-genome view of variation and expression at a single-cell level

Single cell genomics

Single cell genomics [Thierry Voet]

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The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) are launching the Single Cell Genomics Centre (SCGC), which seeks to answer key biological questions by exploring cellular genetics at the highest resolution possible. The centre will focus on the exploration of cell function in normal development and immune function as well as cancer.

The six founding members are John Marioni, Chris Ponting, Wolf Reik, Harold Swerdlow, Sarah Teichmann, and Thierry Voet.

Single-cell genomics enables researchers to identify differences between individual cells within developing tissues. Identifying and understanding differences between cell types and subpopulations is crucial to discovering how cancer spreads or specialized cells - such as neurons - can be grown for use in regenerative medicine.

"The Single Cell Genomics Centre will play a vital role in research at the Sanger Institute, and will stimulate the bioinformatics research needed for interpreting this exciting new type of data," says Dr Sarah Teichmann, who is a faculty member at both the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and EMBL-EBI. "We are looking to establish the centre as a focal point for collaboration to accelerate the science, applications, methods and discoveries in single-cell genomics research."

" The Single Cell Genomics Centre will play a vital role in research at the Sanger Institute, and will stimulate the bioinformatics research needed for interpreting this exciting new type of data. "

Dr Sarah Teichmann

By providing a view of gene variation and gene expression across the entire genome at a single-cell level, the SCGC will drive molecular biology forward.

"We want to reveal as well as understand the fundamental, sometimes dramatic differences between the genomes of individual cells as they arise within an organism: from the developing embryo to brain networks and other normal and diseased tissues, e.g., a developing cancer," says Dr Thierry Voet, Associate Faculty at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and assistant professor at Belgium's KU Leuven. "We are convinced that characterizing single cells and possessing the means to do so, will not just provide a key to novel biological discoveries, but also a path to developing cutting-edge medical applications."

Genomic investigation at the single-cell level is at the frontier of molecular biology, and while some protocols have been developed there are still significant technical and computational challenges to resolve before these approaches can be used in a robust and routine manner. The SCGC will develop new experimental and computational methods in DNA sequencing, epigenomic DNA sequencing and RNA sequencing. This will provide valuable tools for a wide range of research applications.

"The development of new technologies that can detect differences between individual cells represents an amazing new set of scientific opportunities that will provide fundamental insights into the normal development and normal functioning of the human body and will ultimately generate understanding of how these go awry in a wide variety of diseases," says Professor Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Notes to editors

Single Cell Genomics Centre

The EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute

The EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and is located on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton near Cambridge, UK. The EBI grew out of EMBL's pioneering work in providing public biological databases to the research community. It hosts some of the world's most important collections of biological data, including DNA sequences (ENA), protein sequences (UniProt), the genomes of animals and plants, three-dimensional molecular structures, data from gene expression experiments, protein-protein interactions and reactions and pathways. EMBl-EBI's many research groups are continually developing new tools to support the biocomputing community. EMBL-EBI provides essential compute infrastructure for the ENCODE project and coordinates ELIXIR, the emerging research infrastructure for life science data in Europe.

The Babraham Institute

The Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding (£22.4M in 2010-11) from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), undertakes international quality life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. The Institute's research is focused on understanding the biological events that underlie the normal functions of cells and the implication of failure or abnormalities in these processes. Research focuses on signalling and genome regulation, particularly the interplay between the two and how epigenetic signals can influence important physiological adaptations during the lifespan of an organism. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and healthier ageing.

Oxford University's Medical Sciences Division

Oxford University's Medical Sciences Division is one of the largest biomedical research centres in Europe, with over 2,500 people involved in research and more than 2,800 students. The University is rated the best in the world for medicine, and it is home to the UK's top-ranked medical school.

From the genetic and molecular basis of disease to the latest advances in neuroscience, Oxford is at the forefront of medical research. It has one of the largest clinical trial portfolios in the UK and great expertise in taking discoveries from the lab into the clinic. Partnerships with the local NHS Trusts enable patients to benefit from close links between medical research and healthcare delivery.

A great strength of Oxford medicine is its long-standing network of clinical research units in Asia and Africa, enabling world-leading research on the most pressing global health challenges such as malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS and flu. Oxford is also renowned for its large-scale studies which examine the role of factors such as smoking, alcohol and diet on cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

KU Leuven

KU Leuven (University of Leuven) is a leading European research university dedicated to excellent research, education and service to society. It is the largest and oldest university in Belgium. It is a founding member of the League of European Research Universities and has a strong European and international orientation. Its sizeable academic staff conducts basic and applied research in a comprehensive range of disciplines. University Hospitals Leuven, its network of research hospitals, provides high-quality healthcare and develops new therapeutic and diagnostic insights with an emphasis on translational research. Leuven Research and Development (LRD), its technology transfer office, is a world leader in transferring knowledge and technologies to the marketplace. The university welcomes more than 40,000 students, of which 15.5% are international from more than 140 countries. Its doctoral schools organize internationally oriented PhD programs for over 4,000 doctoral students.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease.

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The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests.

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