What do jumping genes, vintners and a supercomputer have in common? They are all part of a high-tech project that REANNZ has been working on with NeSI.
Scientists and researchers have teamed up with REANNZ and New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI) to bring a new device to New Zealand that can unlock the tightly held secrets of naturally occurring organisms, from microbes to hops.
The PromethION genome sequencer offers users high-output, high-throughput sequencing of RNA and DNA. It’s being used here in New Zealand as part of a collaboration between Lincoln University, Bragato Research Institute, REANNZ and NeSI.
Two research projects are already set to benefit from the new technology. Associate Professor Chris Winefield at Lincoln University will be using it as part of his research on horticultural species such as grapes and hops. He focuses on molecular and functional genomics approaches to investigate the role of transposons – or “jumping genes” – in crop evolution. These segments of DNA can change location and alter a plant’s genetics so mapping the genomes will allow agriculturalists to breed new traits.
Dr Darrell Lizamore of Bragato Research Institute leads the New Zealand Grapevine Improvement programme and he’ll be using genome sequencing to characterise beneficial traits from genetic diversity within grapevines. This will help Aotearoa’s $2 billion wine industry become more future-proof. Vintners could use the research to select grape traits that respond to changing needs – such as climate resilience, market opportunities and biosecurity threats. For his research, Dr Lizamore sees significant benefits, “PromethION will allow us to screen thousands of vines for new genetic traits, massively improving the efficiency of our programme. It will also enable our team to develop expertise with this technology, opening the possibility for new ideas and collaborations.”
Funded by Bragato Research Institute, the PromethION platform is hosted at Lincoln University. It connects directly to REANNZ’s research and education network using a dedicated 10G hardware connection to its Point of Presence (PoP). This provides the researchers with access to national connections and the global web of interlinking NRENs. It also allows for uninterrupted access to the computer-processing capability provided by NeSI.
Access to PromethION DNA sequencing is now available to Aotearoa’s researchers. The PromethION instrument is unique because it enables higher sequencing throughput than the more familiar MinION and GridION sequencers used by the community.