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GE Global Research Receives Major NHGRI Research Grant to Enable DNA Sequencing


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GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of the General Electric Company has announced that it has received a $900,000 grant from National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to develop technologies that will enable a human-sized genome to be sequenced for under $1,000 and take one day to complete.

With current technology, the cost is now estimated to be between $10 million to $50 million and the time of sequencing takes at least one year.

Dr. John Nelson, a molecular biologist in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Lab will lead the research project in Niskayuna.

Dr. Nelson, along with several colleagues at Global Research and GE Healthcare, were instrumental in developing the DNA sequencing technologies that helped enable the original sequencing of the human genome in the late 1990s.

Dr. Nelson is now part of Global Research’s Biosciences technology organization, which GE established four years ago to support long-range research endeavors in health care.

"We are extremely pleased to receive this award. It is a perfect project to leverage the broad range of skills found in the Biosciences organization, and one that will ensure GE remains a leader in the DNA sequencing field," Dr. Nelson said.

"We are very excited to be involved in a project that could have such a huge impact in health care."

"There are new examples every day where inexpensive personal DNA sequence information would be beneficial, and this need is only going to increase."

"The ability to bring entire genome sequencing into the mainstream will be vital to helping GE realize its vision of early health," says Dr. Michael Montalto, head of molecular imaging and diagnostics advanced technologies for Global Research.

"This award will support a critical research effort under way at Global Research to deliver the technology necessary, so that sequencing will indeed be faster, more cost-effective and more accessible."

"Today, it takes at least one year to sequence 10 individuals at a cost exceeding well over $100 million," Montalto added.

"If GE’s technology is fully realized, we may be able to sequence more than 100,000 people in less than a day at the same cost."

"This kind of change would be revolutionary, dramatically accelerating our ability to discover predispositions to diseases, new drug treatments and responses to treatments."

As part of the two-year project, Dr. Nelson and his research team will use a combination of enzyme and dye-tagged nucleotide resources, the building block of DNA, in a way that will simplify the fundamental, front-end chemistry of massively parallel sequencing-by-synthesis.

This method uses the natural catalytic cycle of DNA polymerase to capture just a single DNA base on an immobilized primer/template.

A fluorescence scanner will be used to scan and identify hundreds of thousands of individual DNA molecules at once. Then the cycle will be repeated.

The award is segmented into two phases, with the initial two-year goal aiming to demonstrate proof of principle for this novel methodology.

If specific milestones are met, the project proposal includes an additional funding option to develop a prototype of automated instrumentation.

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