Dragen Bio-Processor: UK Partnership to Finally Sequence Domestic Wheat Genome

October 28, 2015 - 2 minutes

We still haven’t fully sequenced the domestic wheat genome! Now the US Dragen chip has the answer for speedy whole-genome analysis, which The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in England will test out for UK food-security research.

tgac_logo_singleDragen is a Bio-IT platform processing chip which has clinical pipelines for many areas in research, including the Microbiome, Cancer, and Epigenetics. Invented by the San Diego based Edico Genetics (US), the Dragen chip cuts whole human genome processing time down from 22.5 hours to a minuscule 41 minutes (and even less for plants like rice, as published in Genome Medicine)!

Now, Edico is delivering Dragen to the UK, in a new partnership with the TGAC in Norwich (England).

Edico engineers have implemented TGAC’s High-Performance infrastructure to adapt the Dragen chip for non-human genome analysis. Indeed, according to Edico’s CEO Pieter van Rooyen:

TGAC [is] a powerhouse in genomics that is home to one of the largest computing hardware facilities in Europe“.

The Dragen Board with Chip and memory (Source: Edico Genome)
The Dragen Board with Chip and memory (Source: Edico Genome)

With funding from the UK Biosciences and Biotechnology Research Council (BBSRC), this means the Dragen chip will now be usable by the TGAC to analyze genomes of certain food-crops. Thus, the TGAC and collaborators will speed up the ongoing Grassroots Genomics project, which aims to improve agricultural yield and secure the UK’s food bio-economy.

A key focus is the wheat genome, which seeing as this domesticated cereal grain (genus Triticum) is a polyploid organism, the genome is actually 5 times larger and more complex than in Humans.

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(Source: Wheatgenome.org)
The full wheat genome remains a mystery…just because it’s such a HUGE project (Source: Wheatgenome.org)

By improving the understanding of the domestic wheat gene pool, the project will be better equipped to advise breeders and Agricultural researchers on how to increase crop yield and resistance to environmental stresses. This ongoing strategy was mainly just stunted by the genome-processing time, so partnering with Edico will really get this party going.

So, this time a Dragen will be helping farmers crops grow better, as opposed to just burning them down.

After the $1000 Genome: The Big Data Bottleneck” from Pieter van Rooyen (CEO of Edico Genome)
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