I’ll be at the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology meeting next week – this will be my my first experience of this annual conference on Florida’s picturesque Marco Island, but I already have high expectations based on reports from previous years. The programme is packed with cutting-edge genomics, and to be honest after a few months of Cambridge weather I’m craving even a brief glimpse of blue sky and salt water.
I’ll be giving a talk myself on some fairly preliminary data emerging from work I’ve been doing with the Sequencing R&D team at my new home, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Briefly, we’ve been looking at ways to use second-generation sequencing technologies to examine a relatively short stretch of DNA in large numbers of individuals simultaneously, by adding tiny, unique DNA barcodes to the fragments from each individual.
My interest in this approach is its ability to generate very rapidly the data required to explore the recent evolutionary history of a particular gene in humans – but it’s a technique that has applications for any group that wants to quickly screen for variation in a targeted region of the genome in a large number of individuals. This has traditionally been a challenging area for second-gen sequencing platforms, for the simple reason that they produce too much data: For a small region of DNA (a few tens of thousands of bases), running a single sample per lane on current systems is simply expensive overkill.
Bar-coding allows us to pool up to 96 samples per lane, making the process cost-effective – although there are still some non-trivial technical obstacles to overcome. The informatic analysis has certainly been a rapid education for me in the challenges of working with high-throughput sequencing data (especially given my very weak background in bioinformatics prior to last year).
The genomics blogosphere will be well-represented at the meeting, with PolITiGenomics’ David Dooling giving a talk on sequencing informatics workflows and MassGenomics’ Dan Koboldt presenting a poster on alignment algorithms for second-gen sequencing platforms, both topics of considerable interest to me as a newbie in the second-gen sequencing arena.
I’m also looking forward to presentations by several of the major competitors in the third-generation sequencing arms race, including Pacific Biosciences and Complete Genomics, who with any luck will provide compelling data to convince me that my prediction about the lack of a $1000 retail human genome sequence this year is completely wrong…
Anyway, assuming I can get a decent internet connection, expect some posts from Florida on the next big things in high-throughput genetics some time next week.