Announcement of National Sequencing projects that will receive SciLifeLab funding

Published: 2014-11-17

SciLifeLabs just approved the first 21 National Projects focused on human whole genome sequencing and biodiversity. In total, thousands of genomes will be sequenced within the projects.

Today the SciLifeLab Board announces its decision on funding 21 projects within the SciLifeLab National Projects venture. SciLifeLab National Projects is an undertaking aimed to provide significant sequencing support to Swedish scientists, thereby supporting them in carrying out competitive international research.

The granted projects focus on several human diseases including leukemia and Alzheimer’s disease as well as the study of biodiversity of organisms as diverse as barnacles, mycorrhiza and rabbits. Johanna Cannon, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, is one of the scientists whose project has been granted. Her research deals with tiny marine animals called acoels that are at the crux of a number of important transitions in evolutionary history.

− These animals cannot be grown in culture, and have large genomes that have proven difficult to sequence with traditional approaches. With this SciLifeLab funding, we can employ cutting-edge DNA sequencing technologies to generate complete genomes of these animals and to elucidate genomic signatures that underlie key evolutionary innovations in animal diversity. Success of this project will provide answers to a number of major evolutionary questions, and will help develop innovative third-generation sequencing approaches for small organisms with large genomes, said Johanna Cannon.

Making whole genome sequencing available to the Swedish research community

The recent revolution in sequencing technology and the Swedish investment in infrastructures, such as SciLifeLab that provides researchers with expertise and technology, are making genome sequencing increasingly available to the research community. With the decreased costs of the new Illumina X Ten machines also human whole genome sequencing becomes affordable.

As a standard SciLifeLab offers sequencing service where the instruments and personnel costs are covered by SciLifeLab, but reagent costs are covered by the research groups. To make sequencing even more available to scientists doing human genetics or biodiversity studies the SciLifeLab National projects have been introduced, granting a deduction of sequencing reagent costs to a number of projects.

Research areas and grants

The SciLifeLab National Projects consist of two programs based on massively parallel DNA sequencing: the Swedish Genomes Program and the Biodiversity Program.

Projects within the Swedish Genomes Program will aim at identifying the genetic causes of human diseases of high health relevance and at the establishment of a reference database of genetic variation in the Swedish population. This reference database will form the foundation for a national collaboration to share human whole genome data for the benefit of all scientists. In total over 2000 human whole genomes will be sequenced within the program and over 1600 of these are financed by SciLifeLab.

In the Biodiversity Program projects may target biodiversity of viruses, bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes, and combinations thereof. Sequencing data for over 4,3 million SEK will be sequenced within the program.

The grants are awarded as a 50% deduction of sequencing reagent costs for senior researchers. For proposals relating to establishment of a national genetic variant reference database and for proposals from junior researchers the complete costs will be covered by SciLifeLab.

In total, 77 applications were sent in to the two programs, whereof 21 projects have been granted. The full list of approved grants is available as a downloadable excel sheet on this page.

− The high number of applications shows that Swedish scientists are keen to use the new technologies across many research areas. We are pleased to support their excellent research by providing these technologies and funding, said Karin Forsberg Nilsson, Scientific Director at SciLifeLab and main organizer of the evaluation process.

The applications have been peer-reviewed by expert reviewers and a scientific panel has made suggestions on funding based on the expert reviewers evaluations. The guidelines used at the Swedish Research Council have been used in the evaluation process.

In the selection process the SciLifeLab board has emphasized scientific quality and feasibility. The applicants must also assign at least one scientist from their group for the data analysis phase to ensure efficient knowledge transfer and longevity of the project beyond the actual data generation.

A new call for projects will be announced in early 2015.

About SciLifeLab

SciLifeLab is a national center for molecular biosciences with focus on health and environmental research. The center combines frontline technical expertise with advanced knowledge of translational medicine and molecular bioscience. SciLifeLab is a national resource and a collaboration between four universities: Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Uppsala University.

For more information please contact:

Karin Forsberg Nilsson
018-471 4158, 070-1679579

Johanna Cannon