Every December, I realize how fast this year has passed. Sometimes we get caught up in our routines and often miss some of the moments that made this year different from the last. Here are ten sequencing moments that made 2015 a remarkable and memorable year.
1] NCI – MATCH trial: A Step Closer To Precision Medicine
Cancer is often treated as if it is one disease, but in reality, it is a multitude of diseases with every individual reacting differently to the disease and their respective treatments. This year at ASCO, the first nationwide oncology trial of its kind was announced where up to 1000 patients across the U.S. will be enrolled to determine whether their tumor samples contain genetic mutations for which a targeted drug exists and assign treatment based on specific mutations. Known as the Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice or MATCH trial from the NCI, this program is utilizing next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology to screen biopsy samples to search for changes in driver genes using a custom gene sequencing panel. Such a program has tremendous potential to transform the future of cancer care.
2] LiquidBiopsy™ Platform: Studying Circulating Tumor Cells And Tumor DNA
Tumors are made up of many different cell populations. As a potential alternative to solid-tissue biopsy, circulating tumor cells or tumor DNA can help understand tumor composition. A comprehensive single end-to-end liquidbiopsy workflow allows scientists to isolate and study Circulating Tumor Cells, cell-free DNA, and germline cells. Such a complete workflow will propel research to study peripheral blood monitoring in cancer samples. You can read more about it here.
3] Ancient DNA: Ancient DNA Paves New Path
Let’s take a step back almost an 11,000 years ago. Almost as far back as the last ice age. There are often controversies around human migration and the periods during which it occurred. Scientists sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of two 11,500-year-old infant children buried in Beringia and found rare haplotypes that cannot be found in the current local population. Instead, this haplotype was observed when the first ever complete mitochondrial genome of a 500-year-old Inca child mummy found in Argentina was sequenced. This research tells us that a genetically diverse population of humans migrated from Asia across the Bering Strait into South America.
4] Jurassic World: Sequencing On The Big Screen
Thermo Fisher Scientific loaned its Ion Proton™ sequencers during the production of Jurassic world. The Ion Protons housed in Dr. Hammond’s lab were fictitiously used to sequence ancient dinosaur DNA. The data was then used to genetically engineer one of the movie’s leading characters – the Indominus Rex, a completely new species of dinosaur, and bring back other dinosaurs from extinction. Although this is science fiction, moments like these that showcase the romanticism of science signals a society’s understanding or, at least, an appreciation of the biology that is shaping our world today and that is what makes this sequencing moment so special. You can read more about it here.
5] Cheetah Conservation: Conservation At A Genetic Level
In a more realistic approach to species conservation, our next moment takes us to the plains of Namibia, where Thermo Fisher Scientific recently donated an Applied Biosystems™ 3130 Genetic Analyzer to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, an organization dedicated to saving cheetahs in the wild. The sequencing technology allowed scientists to understand the genetic diversity of the endangered cheetah population and their ecosystem in Africa, to help improve the survival of this magnificent species. Find out more about the study here.
6] Elephant Poaching: Uncovering Ivory Poaching Hotspots
Another big sequencing moment came from Dr. Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington, who used Sanger sequencing to first map elephant populations by sampling elephant dung and then map Ivory sold in international markets to trace back to the regions where the elephants were poached. His research has given us first insights into the primary areas where elephants are poached. This research could help combat ivory trafficking at its very source. Also, such knowledge can also be leveraged by Law enforcement to focus on poaching hot spots and significantly reduce illegal killings that happen today.
7] Herbal Supplements: DNA Barcoding Brings Food Fraud To Light
This year, DNA barcoding was used to test the authenticity of 44 herbal products representing 12 companies. Most of the tested herbal products were of poor quality, had product substitution, contamination, and fillers. Such products would not be effective and mislead the consumer, but this practice does not only constitute as food fraud but according to the World Health Organization, it is also a threat to consumer safety. For more information, click here.
8] CDC Microbridge™ Partnership: Microbebridge™ Connects Public Health Labs
Thermo Fisher Scientific partnered with a specialized bacteriology reference lab at the CDC, helping provide public health laboratories with easy access to the Microbridge reference database to quickly identify microbes that may cause outbreaks. Such a partnership may allow public healthcare labs easier, faster and a more accurate detection of microbes and strains potentially responsible for outbreaks and epidemics.
9] Ebola Outbreak: Sequencing Ebola In Real-Time
A recent epidemic that made headline news was the devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa killing over 11,000 people. Professor Ian Goodfellow from the University of Cambridge made a heroic journey to Sierra Leone to understand the Ebola virus and its evolution in real-time. The Ion PGM™ sequencing technology enabled him to work in the most challenging of field environments and understand this deadly virus as it wreaked havoc across the world.
10] Ion S5™: Ion S5™ Sequencer Launch
Dr. Goodfellow had never used a sequencer before in his research, and it signals the wider adoption of sequencing to serve humanity. With the recent launch of the Ion S5, we’ve come one step closer to providing solutions with simplicity. When combined with the Ion Chef™, this system makes targeted sequencing super simple. It can handle three different chips and can take on various sample throughputs without compromising on your grant budget. The system was also featured as one of the top 10 innovations of 2015 by a panel of judges at the Scientist magazine.
As we move closer to realizing the future of genomic and personalized medicine, sequencing is a technology that’s truly evolving these fields, pushing the limits of the scientific research. Did we miss anything off this list? What other moments do you think made an impact on genomics? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, please be sure to share our blog, and be sure to check out the links to dive deeper into any of the stories on our list.