New PANGAIA Project: Developing Computational Pangenomics
Milan, January 29, 2020. Computational Biology Research Group at Comenius University is a member of a consortium of researchers from five European universities and two companies, aiming to further the analysis of DNA sequences, with applications to human genetics. The PANGAIA project has been funded with a grant from the MSCA-RISE program of the European Community.
By: Tomáš Vinař
DNA sequencing is an indispensable tool of contemporary biomedical research, and is quickly becoming commonplace in clinical diagnostics. Even though 15 years ago, sequencing DNA of a single person cost millions of euroes, today it is possible to sequence a patient DNA for less than 1000 EUR, and the cost is still dropping. "PANGAIA project attempts to upgrade algorithms that form computing infrastructure to analyze these genomes. While today, most of the tools analyze genomes in the context of a single reference individual sequence, we aim to provide tools that would compare sequenced DNA to a population of potentially thousands of individuals," explains Paola Bonizzoni, the lead researcher of the PANGAIA project from University of Milan - Biccocca. The success of this initiative will lead to significant improvements in speed and accuracy of DNA analyses.
The Horizon 2020 MSCA-RISE program aims to unite initiatives of individual research groups, connecting researchers from academia and industry, and forming a unified effort that will lead to significant results. PANGAIA consortium, besides European academic researchers, also includes a research group from the UK subsidiary of Illumina, the leader in development of DNA sequencing technologies, and Slovak company Geneton, which focuses on development of medical applications of DNA sequencing. The consortium also includes partners from the United States, Canada, and Japan.
"The Computational Biology Research Group at Comenius University brings to the consortium a significant experience with analyses of DNA sequences from various modern sequencing technologies.", explains Tomas Vinar from the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics of Comenius University in Bratislava. "Our main task is to develop applications that will enable efficient identification of differences between sequenced samples. Such comparison can help to identify genetic defects in humans, or to map the differences between microorganisms."
The PANGAIA project has officially started this week with a kick-off meeting at the University of Milan - Biccocca and will continue until the end of 2023. The activities of the project will include research visits, scientific workshops, as well as summer schools for early stage researchers.