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Sergey Nuzhdin Awarded Stimulus Grant

A stimulus grant awarded to USC College molecular biology professor Sergey Nuzhdin will enable the purchase of a genome sequencer and allow experimentalists to analyze data produced with their custom techniques.
A stimulus grant awarded to USC College molecular biology professor Sergey Nuzhdin will enable the purchase of a genome sequencer and allow experimentalists to analyze data produced with their custom techniques.

Sergey Nuzhdin, professor of molecular biology at USC College, has been awarded a $563,000 stimulus grant to purchase an Illumina/Solexa Genome Sequencer. The money also will cover the salaries of technical and bioinformatics employees, likely postdoctoral scientists, to operate the technology.

Solexa sequencing technology is based on massively parallel sequencing of millions of fragments using a novel reversible terminator-based sequencing chemistry.

Powered by the genome analyzer, Illumina’s Solexa technology is a robust, accurate and flexible system that supports multiple applications. This approach to sequencing is setting a new standard for productivity, cost-effectiveness and accuracy among next-generation sequencing technologies.

Currently, one or two Solexa machines exist at the Health Sciences campus for the purposes of medical research. There is heavy demand for its use by the health sciences faculty. Consequently, faculty on the main campus must outsource their sequencing to labs throughout the country.

As a result of the grant, the first high-throughput sequencing machine will be available for general scientific research on the University Park campus. The machine will be located in Ray R. Irani Hall.

“High-throughput sequencing machines are typically sequestered in genome centers, which limits their utility for the average scientist not linked to these facilities,” Nuzhdin said. “While these centers provide a much-needed economy of scale, often this comes at the sacrifice of only utilizing highly standardized procedures to ensure profitability. Many experiments and scientific questions require more customization of the experimental approach to drive further advances.”

As a result of the new Solexa, computational biologists will enable experimentalists to analyze data produced with their custom techniques. Even more important, the data sets will be invaluable for the USC computational biologists whose work focuses primarily on publicly available datasets. The interactions will positively impact the integration of experimental and computational biology and greatly facilitate additional training opportunities for students.

The genetic knowledge gained may, among other things, improve soil fertility, even under saline conditions, which has the potential to lessen world food shortages.

While no research assistants will be hired as a result of the grant, students utilizing the Solexa machine will greatly benefit from research opportunities.

The grant has been matched with a $250,000 award from the Provost’s Office.