Venter Institute wins $25M NIH grant to apply sequencing tech to infectious diseases

J. Craig Venter

With antimicrobial drug resistance and potential pandemics high on public health officials' lists of concerns, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has committed $25 million to better understanding infectious diseases. NIH has awarded the cash to the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), which will apply its sequencing and bioinformatics skills to tackling the field.

Having won the 5-year contract, JCVI is setting up the Genome Center for Infectious Diseases to investigate areas identified by NIH. The center will focus on projects involving viruses, bacteria and parasites, each of which will benefit from advances in genetic sequencing and computing. Goals for the bacteria team include the sequencing of more than 1,700 strains of Klebsiella, Acinetobacter and Enterobacter, Reuters reports, while the virus unit is researching influenza and rotavirus.

"It's a pretty big program," JCVI President Karen Nelson told the newswire. JCVI will use 6 sequencing platforms at the center, GenomeWeb reports, with Illumina's ($ILMN) MiSeq and HiSeq being used alongside technology owned by Thermo Fisher Scientific ($TMO), Pacific Biosciences ($PACB) and Roche ($RHHBY). Primary data and comparative analyses are planned to help JCVI turn the genome-sequencing output into knowledge that can help tackle infectious diseases.

Other research groups will also benefit from the work, with JCVI planning to share its findings with the infectious-disease community. Developers of malaria vaccines are one group that could benefit from the work. "Malaria is a particularly high focus for [NIH]. The focus there is really on exploring approaches to come up with malaria vaccines, which are looking more and more like they're going to potentially be a reality for managing malaria," JCVI researcher William Nierman said.

- read the Reuters article
- here's GenomeWeb's take (reg. req.)
- and the press release

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article reported JCVI will use equipment owned by Life Technologies. The article was changed to clarify that Thermo Fisher Scientific now owns the technology.