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A step up for systems biology
July 2010
by Lloyd Dunlap  |  Email the author


CARLSBAD, Calif.—Citing the astonishing statistic that its SOLiD 4hq system can sequence 300 billion bases—equivalent to three complete human genomes—in a single run, Life Technologies Corp. recently announced that it will collaborate with the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, or DKFZ) to create the National High-Throughput Sequencing Center.
Based on an ongoing relationship that began with predecessor companies Applied Biosystems and Invitrogen, this exclusive partnership will create the largest sequencing facility in Germany and the first national sequencing center in Europe dedicated to systems biology.
The center will operate 10 SOLiD 4 hq systems acquired by DKFZ and will initially sequence 1,000 whole human cancer genomes for Germany's national contribution to the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC).  
Kent Davidson, who is Life Technologies' head of SOLiD in Europe, notes that his company will provide service, application and bioinformatics support in addition to the hardware, while DKFZ will be responsible for biology. Previously, the center had outsourced sequencing projects.  
Pediatric brain cancer will be the first work to "crunch through," Davidson adds. Life Technologies' Roland Wicki, director of market development for Europe, expects the cost per genome to be in the $3,000 range. The facility will be partially funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.  
"Life Technologies is proud to be the technology partner of choice for this new and exciting sequencing center and to be working with DKFZ, a renowned institution in Germany in life science research devoted to studying the complexities of human diseases like cancer," says Mark Stevenson, president and chief operating officer of Life Technologies. "This center will be the first facility that will systematically bring high-throughput sequencing technology into systems biology applications on a large scale."
Systems biology is the study of an organism as an integrated and interacting network of genes, proteins and biochemical reactions that give rise to life. Often, experiments in systems biology require precise measurements of cellular events over time and assess changes in DNA sequence, RNA transcription or genomic copy number. Because systems biology studies measure all changes in the cell—genomic, epigenomic and transgenomic—these experiments require substantially more sequencing throughput than experiments that are not examining such dynamic changes in cellular events.
"Our aim is to understand the dynamic complexity of cellular processes on both the DNA and RNA level and how slight perturbations of those pathways contribute to the development of diseases like cancer," says Professor Roland Eils from DKFZ. "Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to be able to obtain quantitative, precise measurements. We are confident that this collaboration with Life Technologies will help us generate the highest quality data possible using the SOLiD technology."  
The SOLiD System is used globally in experiments to better understand the genetic nature of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders and other diseases. The renowned Max Planck Institute in Berlin is a customer and Sean Grimmonds' lab in Australia currently operates 11 SOLiD systems.
Life Technologies had sales of $3.3 billion in 2009, employs approximately 9,000 people, has a presence in approximately 160 countries and possesses a rapidly growing intellectual property estate of approximately 3,900 patents and exclusive licenses. Life Technologies was created by the combination of Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems, and manufactures both in vitro diagnostic products and research use only-labeled products.
Code: E071006



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