Scientists at Work: Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics
The Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at Indiana University Bloomington turns 10 this year. CGB is somewhat more precocious than your average fifth-grader, however. While other 10-year-olds are learning about integers and African nations this fall, CGB will be busy mapping whole-organism genomes and bringing millions of dollars in research money to the state of Indiana.
IU President Michael A. McRobbie has said of the research center that it is "a model of success in our research community," and "Not only is it a stellar example of collaboration and establishing partners across varying disciplines, but it bolsters our goal for securing a nationally respected hub for basic life sciences research in Bloomington."
Three years ago, CGB acquired a genetic sequencing machine that attracted a host of new sequencing projects to Bloomington.
Few academic institutions have the GS-FLX genome sequencer, made by Roche. Even in a this world of rapid technological obsolescence, the device is blazingly fast, capable of sequencing an entire bacterial genome's As, Ts, Cs and Gs in four to five days. This is the sort of thing that boggles the minds of older molecular biologists, who once were accustomed to such projects taking years to complete.
"We have used the sequencer for 'de novo' sequencing of genomes, re-sequencing of previously sequenced genomes (particularly to hunt for mutations), genotyping, cDNA sequencing for gene discovery and microRNA sequencing," said CGB Deputy Director Jennifer Steinbachs.
The center has since acquired newer and more specialized devices through grants and other support, and been involved in dozens of sequencing projects it spearheaded or it conducted in collaboration with other institutions.
CGB has already been an engine behind a number of major sequencing and genome-related projects, including the parasitic wasp Nasonia, the first transcribed genetic map of the sunflower, which is helping researchers identify genes that control the economically important crop's ecological and agricultural traits, honeybees, and anoles, a type of lizard common in the American southeast and the Caribbean. The center helped identify the interactions among different species of bacteria that live in the disease-carrying tick Amblyomma americanum. CGB staff also recently helped complete a first pass of the water flea genome. A collaboration with IU biology faculty, enabled by the purchase of a laser capture microscope, examines tissue-specific gene expression in Drosophila (fruit flies).
CGB was created in 2000 by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the College of Arts and Sciences with seed funding from the Indiana Genomics Initiative, or INGEN. IUB biologist Peter Cherbas is its first director. CGB staff are currently working on 60 projects with collaborators from IU and other institutions. The center occupies several thousand square feet in Jordan, Myers, and Simon halls and has grown from a handful of staff to 52 full- and part-time employees.