We are living through a new revolution; a genomics technology revolution. This revolution impacts on virtually every field of the biological sciences, whether it is agriculture, medicine and disease or environmental science.
The Genomics Revolution offers a very real opportunity to the University of Pretoria. With its strategic investments in structures, hardware, software and people, the University can become the leading centre of genomics research in Africa.
The core technology that links all genomics, and the heart of the revolution, is DNA sequencing. In 2004, after a decade of work by thousands of researchers around the world, and at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, the complete sequence of the 3 billion base pair human genome was completed. With the new sequencing technology, available to us for less than 5 years, we can sequence the human genome over a weekend and at a cost of not much more than $10,000. Within a few years, the technology is likely to be ten times faster and a tenth of the cost.
The challenge to genomic scientists is to take advantage of the enormous power and scope of this new technology. It is no small challenge, because it involves changes in mindset, learning new skills, embracing new approaches, defining new questions and much more. One of the new skills is Bioinformatics, the computational manipulation of DNA sequence data. This is a vital resource for genomics, and filling the growing need for bioinformatics support and training is one of the many challenges of genomics.
The Institutional Research Themes (IRT) in Genomics, established in late 2011, is just one of the Universities responses to these challenges.
The Genomics Research Institute (GRI) spans the three Faculties of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Veterinary Sciences and Health Sciences. Its principal aim is to bring together staff and projects from across these Faculties in order to develop new, cutting-edge inter-disciplinary research projects. To support this objective, the GRI has a research budget for 2013 and 2014 and can support project costs, equipment purchases and some bursaries.
Reflecting the breadth of research interests across the University, we divide the research activities of the GRI into 3 major sectors:
Human and Health Genomics
Plant and Animal Genomics
At present the GRI comprises 46 academic staff and nearly 60 associated researches at MSc, PhD and postdoctoral levels. This team includes some of the leading researchers in the University, but with a good number of developing researchers.
University of Pretoria researchers interested in becoming part of the GRI are very welcome to contact the Director.