Dr Allison Jackson from Glasgow Polyomics explains why Precision Sequencing was formed, what each of the four partners brings to the table, and what Precision Sequencing can offer.

What is genomic sequencing?

Every living thing has a genome. A genome is like a computer code that tells your body what to do, and genomic sequencing is being able to read the computer code so you can decipher the instructions.

Why is this important?

Data from sequencing can highlight changes in a gene that may cause disease. The ability to sequence the human genome quickly and cost-effectively creates vast potential for new diagnostics and therapies.

Who are the four parties involved in Precision Sequencing?

Glasgow Polyomics, Stratified Medicine Scotland – Innovation Centre (SMS-IC), Glasgow University Centre for Virus Research (CVR) and Glasgow Precision Oncology Lab (GPOL) are the four partners involved in Precision Sequencing.

Each partner has different expertise in genomic sequencing and we all bring something different to the table. The CVR are experts in sequencing viruses, while SMS-IC focus on precision medicine, which is all about finding the right medicine, for the right person, at the right time. GPOL specialise in sequencing the genomes of cancer and Glasgow Polyomics have broad expertise in many types of sequencing, on a wide variety of samples including humans, animals, plants and parasites.

Why did you all decide to come together? What can you offer together that you couldn’t do apart?

If you require genomic sequencing it can be confusing to figure out which provider is best suited to your needs, so by the four partners joining together we can do the hard work for you – we’re a one-stop-shop for all your sequencing solutions. All you need to do is get in touch with us and once we know the details about your sequencing requirements we will work out which partner is the best fit for your project. By doing this, we can offer users a much more streamlined and efficient service.

What kind of funding have you had to establish Precision Sequencing?

So far, we have managed to secure two small grants. One from the Glasgow University ‘Knowledge Exchange Fund’ and one from the Medical Research Council’s ‘Proximity to Discovery: Industry Engagement Fund’. Both grants have been for £10,000.

What kind of organisations can Precision Sequencing help?

Anyone that needs genetic sequencing carried out, from clinicians and researchers to industry partners and the NHS. Due to our broad range of expertise, we will be able to find the perfect match for any sequencing project.

What kind of projects are you working on just now?

There are lots of really interesting projects going on at the moment.

SMS-IC are working with Eagle Genomics on a precision medicine project for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) which is a form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This ground-breaking project could help develop new tests and treatments for patients diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Glasgow Polyomics are currently working with researchers from the University of Glasgow to identify changes in coral algae species over time in response to rising ocean temperatures and associated coral bleaching.

GPOL are involved with Precision Panc, a large-scale UK-wide collaborative project, where GPOL are working with pancreatic cancer patients to analyse the molecular profile of their tumours, so they can identify what the most appropriate treatment would be for each patient.

CVR are carrying out research into the Zika virus. The main objective is to study the presence and distribution of the virus in Brazil and to understand the impacts of infection on the immune system. The ultimate aim of this project is the development of a vaccine.

Which projects are you particularly proud of?

Glasgow Polyomics and SMS-IC worked on a project detecting patient response to drug treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and found a biomarker that can predict patient response to treatment.  This hopefully means that (after more research) when someone is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, it will be possible to check for this biomarker which would then affect which treatment they are given, ultimately resulting in them being placed much more quickly onto a treatment that will work for them.

Glasgow Polyomics, together with researchers from The University of Glasgow and the Moredun Research Institute, completed a project which examined proteins and metabolites in milk and discovered potential biomarkers for mastitis in cows. It is hoped that this research will lead to rapid diagnostic tests which would give farmers real-time information on the health of their animals, allowing for targeted treatment to be given quickly.

What does the future hold for Precision Sequencing?

In five years’ time, I would like Precision Sequencing to be so well known that when people require sequencing solutions, we are the first provider that comes to mind.

Success for us would be a thriving partnership where we are able to support each other and provide the best service we possibly can, satisfying our customers and working on large-scale projects with new partners.