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The University of
Birmingham and BGI have announced a major joint initiative in environmental and
human health research.
The new venture will
provide a world-class research and training centre on Birmingham’s campus that
integrates state-of-the-art approaches in molecular biology, including DNA
sequencing, metabolomics and bioinformatics. Research will focus on organism responses
to environmental change through to disease susceptibility and treatment.
expands the University of Birmingham’s recently announced £2
million research investment into the fields of environmental genomics and
metabolomics to link genes and metabolite functions to the fate of natural
populations coping with environmental challenges. The longer term impacts will
be from using this information as “early warning system” to better protect
human and environmental health from chemical pollution and other stressors
including climatic change.
This initiative also
builds upon Birmingham’s Stratified Medicine and Systems Science for Health
programs. The West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory, the largest NHS
genetics facility in the UK, is at the forefront of introducing new genomic
technologies into clinical pathways to transform the delivery of healthcare in
the UK. The initiative will provide tools and additional skill sets to
integrate genomics into mainstream medicine such as in cancer treatment.
Genomics has also been
at the heart of bacteriological research in Birmingham for over a decade, now
within a new Institute of Microbiology and Infection and an NIHR-funded
Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre. This new
BGI-Birmingham initiative will improve our understanding of the microbial
communities that colonise the human body, evaluating how these change in health
and disease with potential to augment, or even replace, traditional diagnostic
As one of the world’s
largest genomics organisations, BGI has developed an integrative structure of
research innovation, platform development and industrial application for
promoting the advancement of innovative biology research, molecular breeding,
healthcare and related fields. Although the headquarters of BGI is located in
Shenzhen, China, it’s UK partnership with the University of Birmingham catalyses
unique collaborations across the three distinct research themes given above,
made possible by technologies and BGI’s expertise at processing and analysing
unprecedented numbers of samples.
“This partnership’s mission is to solve 21st
century challenges in environmental and human health. We appreciate this great
opportunity to collaborate with scientists at the University of Birmingham.
Combining two organisations’ world leading expertise and extensive research
experience in these fields, I believe we could make more scientific
breakthroughs for benefiting human life in the near future.”, said Yingrui Li,
Vice President of BGI.
Under this agreement,
BGI will work with the University to place an initial installation of
sequencers and personnel within an interim joint laboratory to jump-start
projects that together will help transform environmental and human health.
Plans are underway to establish a made-for-purpose site for scaling-up the
research activities. The scientific collaborations are further enhanced by
plans to provide PhD level training opportunities to BGI staff, and student
exchanges between Birmingham and Shenzhen.
Frampton and Kevin Chipman, who are Directors of Research for the College of
Medical and Dental Sciences, and for the College of Life and Environmental
Sciences at the University of Birmingham, commented that this integrative
initiative will have a transformational impact on many areas of biological and
biomedical research at the University of Birmingham.
“BGI’s significant presence at a UK
institution of higher learning will reinforce how life-science education and
basic research can improve human, environmental and economic wellbeing”, said
Professor Adam Tickell, the University's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and
Knowledge Transfer. “We also expect innovations from the partnership’s
activities that will translate into more collaborations, including with
industry, to create new environmental and healthcare start-up companies and
employment for our graduates.”
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