Academics snag EU cash for 3-D genomics project

Modesto Orozco

The European Union has coughed up €3 million ($3.3 million) for research into the 3-D structure of chromatin. Researchers will use the money to develop a set of protocols, methods and processes for the storage and analysis of data, laying the groundwork for an era in which understanding of the effects of nucleic acid sequences is supplemented by insights gleaned from the 3-D structures.

A team at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona, Spain, collected the money after persuading the organizers of the Horizon 2020 program of the need for investment in research into 3-D genomics. "The techniques used for 3-D genomics are very new, they are not mature and there are huge deficits in data processing. This makes the field unstable, above all with respect to the reproducibility of results," Modesto Orozco, the coordinator of the project, said in a statement. Orozco and his collaborators aim to use the €3 million to address these shortcomings.

The development of a viewer that enables researchers to see the 3-D structure of chromatin and zoom in on areas of interest is one objective. By showing researchers how chromatin folds and the effect this has on the function of the DNA, Orozco thinks the project can support breakthroughs. "The many 1D genomic studies in recent years have demonstrated that although the analysis of sequences provides valuable information, it is not sufficient to understand a given disease. The relationships remain obscure and probably are so because they depend on the 3-D signal," he said.

Orozco also wants to build in a fourth dimension, time, to show how the structure of the chromatin changes in response to external factors. To achieve these ambitions, the project has pulled together collaborators with a range of skills and capabilities. The Barcelona Supercomputing Center is on board to provide the computing horsepower, while the European Bioinformatics Institute is helping out with the handling of the biological data.

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