Sanger Institute joining LCNTDR as Associate Member

30 Sep 2016
Dr Matt Berrimen

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is a world leader in analysing genomes from the pathogens that cause neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).  For more than a decade the Institute has produced high quality reference genomes from pathogens.  With recent new approaches to capture and enrich target organisms, pathogens can now be sequenced without the need for culturing.  

Working directly from clinical samples, we are studying the evolution and spread of bacteria that cause leprosy, Buruli ulcer, yaws and blinding trachoma.  Similarly, reference genomes have been created to investigate how parasitic protozoa evolve and adapt (e.g. Leishmania,  a genus of parasites that can cause disfiguring and sometimes deadly disease). Representatives have been sequenced to uncover the genetic basis for different clinical outcomes.  

Working with partners across the globe, we are using large-scale sampling and genome sequencing to study the genetics and epidemiology of parasite populations.

Small research communities are a defining feature of NTD research, but by joining LCNTDR, we hope to combine strengths with our new partners to address a critical unmet need for larger scale NTD research.

Despite infecting more than a billion people, helminth research has only recently entered the genomic era. Upon a foundation of accurate genomes for helminths, we have assembled the largest comparison to date of draft genomes encompassing more than 50 species.

These data are revealing major genomic differences between groups of parasites and highlighting genes that may be involved in parasite interactions with their hosts. By comparing helminth genomes within a species, we are working with partners at the LCNTDR to understand how helminth populations change in response to control efforts.

For most neglected pathogens the details on gene functions are lacking.  For several parasites, we are now collecting detailed and fundamental information on gene expression changes at key points across their life cycles. Several parasite species are grown at the Institute, to study host-pathogen interactions and provide material for in-depth functional genomics studies.

From these data, candidate genes that encode cell surface and secreted proteins are selected for detailed investigation, including systematic preclinical subunit vaccine target screening using murine infection models.  We are taking advantage of the mammalian expression infrastructures at the Sanger Institute to produce large panels of recombinant proteins and increase the chances they are correctly folded.

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