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PacBio, Singapore's GIS Expand Collaboration on Infectious Disease

PacBio, Singapore's GIS Expand Collaboration on Infectious Disease

PacBio, Singapore's GIS Expand Collaboration on Infectious Disease

PacBio, Singapore's GIS Expand Collaboration on Infectious Disease

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A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) recently expanded their collaboration with Pacific Biosciences (PacBio), a California-based provider of the PacBio® RS II Sequencing System, based on novel Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) technology. 

The collaboration builds on the complementary strengths of both the GIS and PacBio in the analysis and understanding of bacteria and viruses, including those that cause diseases such as diarrhoea, meningitis, urinary tract infection, dengue, and liver cancer, as well as those that we continuously live with, termed the microbiota. Understanding the dynamics of bacterial genomes is particularly relevant to address the growing challenge of antibiotic resistance in Singapore and the rest of the world. 

Dr Swaine Chen, Dr Martin Hibberd, and Dr Niranjan Nagarajan from the GIS are spearheading the collaboration. Dr Chen said, “Working together with PacBio, we are able to fully sequence bacterial genomes and arrive at deeper insights into how bacteria cause disease”. 

This latest collaboration extends and expands the previous one with PacBio. Earlier in the year, Dr Chen and Dr Hibberd completed an initial formal collaboration with PacBio - one that provided insights into how E. coli causes urinary tract infection, the results of which are anticipated for publication later this year. 

Ram Laxman, President and General Manager of Pacific Biosciences, Asia Pacific, commented, “SMRT® Sequencing technology is proving to be the Gold Standard in bacterial and viral sequencing due to its ability to fully resolve repeat regions and “finish” genomes. Other NGS technologies are not able to finish even the smallest of bacterial genomes due to their sequence context bias and very short sequencing reads. It’s like trying to complete a complex puzzle with missing puzzle pieces”. He also added that researchers started using PacBio RS II for tracking mutations in viruses that cause pandemics like MERS. The quick turnaround time, coupled with the highest consensus sequencing accuracy is crucial to track the spread and mutation rates on these viruses. 

Michael Hunkapiller, President and CEO of Pacific Biosciences, commented, “We Page 2 of 4 see a huge potential in working with world-renowned institutions like GIS to further broaden the applications of SMRT Sequencing, especially those that have direct impact on human health.” 

Prof Ng Huck Hui, Executive Director of GIS said, “This expanded collaboration with PacBio® enables us to further our research towards improving public healthcare in Singapore. By acquiring a deeper understanding of bacterial genomes, we can tackle common infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance in an efficient manner, leading to better patient outcomes.”