Celebrating 10 years of genetics, genomics trailblazing

AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service welcomes new laboratory celebrating a decade of genomics analysis at Texas A&M

Genetics and genomics are in the spotlight at Texas A&M AgriLife Oct. 29, with a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Texas A&M AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service, also known as TxGen.

“The AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service is a vital collaborator for faculty members performing research in dozens of disciplines,” said Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor for Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “The group’s technology and expertise will be essential as we work to advance health and agriculture.”

The celebration features a day-long symposium and open house of a dazzling new laboratory on the Texas A&M University west campus. PerkinElmer, Illumina, Pacific Biosciences and Oxford Nanopore Technologies have provided significant support for the new facility. Among the new amenities is Illumina’s DRAGEN server, which can reduce computational hardware and data processing costs, boosting speed and flexibility to optimize bioinformatic processes and achieve the highest quality results.

“The things we are able to accomplish routinely today would have seemed like science fiction a decade ago,” said Charles Johnson, Ph.D., director of AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service. “We are thankful for our team of experts and state-of-the-art, innovative technology that allows us to accomplish unprecedented levels of analysis.”

Symposium speakers include Stover, faculty members from six Texas A&M departments and researchers from biosciences companies, including the chief science officer from Pacific Biosciences and the general manager of PerkinElmer’s Next-Gen Sequencing division. Illumina’s entire agrigenomics team will be in attendance, seeking applications for the company’s 2020 Agricultural Greater Good Initiative grants.

Celebration schedule:

Location: AgriLife Center, 556 John Kimbrough Boulevard, College Station

8 – 8:45 a.m.,​ Registration.

9 a.m. – noon, ​Genomic industry presentations.

noon –1 p.m.,​ Lunch.

1 – 4 p.m., ​Genomic research presentations.

Location: TxGen, 1500 Research Parkway, Suite 250, College Station

4 – 6 p.m., ​Lab open house.

From local to global: Ten years of AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service history

TxGen was established in 2009 with the simple goal of supporting faculty research. Later, AgriLife became among the first in Texas to purchase two top-of-the-line DNA sequencers, the Illumina Genome Analyzer II Systems. Shortly after, Charles Johnson, Ph.D., was recruited from his position as senior manager of genomics services at Ambion to direct the lab. Johnson’s goal was to expand next-generation sequencing use across The Texas A&M University System.

Over 10 years, AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service went through eight major equipment upgrades and grew from a small core service to a respected collaborator of a global network of scientists.

The service has sequenced the genomes of more than 100 species and co-authored 2,500 research studies with more than 1,000 researchers in 35 countries. It has helped train over 800 students in genomics and bioinformatics analysis.

AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service has also helped bring $135 million in new funding to Texas A&M faculty. In addition to service revenue, the group has procured $15 million for new equipment, genomics seed grants, and staff and graduate student support.

In 2018, the group was selected a PerkinElmer Center of Excellence. AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service collaborated with PerkinElmer robotics and next-generation sequencing divisions to develop a pipeline that can process up to 100,000 sequencing samples per year. In the first four weeks of operation, the pipeline processed 2,688 samples, and today that number has risen to 32,000 and is growing daily.

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