UT Arlington and the University of North Texas Health Science Center will bring high-powered gene processing capabilities to North Texas, as they partner on a new biomedical facility that will house some of the most advanced gene sequencing machines in the world.
The facility, called the North Texas Genome Center, will focus on genome sequencing’s potential within the budding field of precision health, which puts a focus on a patient’s genetic makeup to provide new solutions to medical problems.
The NTGC’s centerpieces are five NovaSeq6000 gene sequencers, the top-of-the-line model from Illumina Inc, a San Diego company specializing in gene sequencing hardware and software. The model, released in January 2017, made headlines in mid-February when a team used it to sequence an entire genome in a Guinness World Record-setting 19.5 hours. The timeline for such a project is more typically around 40 hours.
Top-dollar machines command top-dollar: The NovaSeq6000 costs $985,000. It doesn’t require a minimum order like its predecessors, the HiSeq X5 and X10; the X10 sold only as a set of ten for $10 million, as Illumina announced when the machine was launched in 2014.
The five machines at the NTGC are the third set of NovaSeq6000 machines installed in Texas, according to the Texas A&M University Genomics and Bioinformatics Service. Baylor College of Medicine in Houston acquired one in March 2017 and Texas A&M AgriLife Research at College Station got one in April. The other US-based NovaSeq6000 systems are mostly concentrated in research and patient-care facilities across New York and California. They’re also spread across locations like Indianapolis, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Grand Rapids.
The NTGC will form the core of UTA’s new, world-class Science & Engineering Innovation & Research academic building, which opens in July. UTA and UNTHSC say they will partner with hospitals and medical systems throughout North Texas to continue building a foundation to allow precision healthcare into the mainstream. For now, the NTGC will begin operating this month out of a nearby UTA lab, focusing on drug development, disease prevention, cancer treatment, and fundamental genetic aspects.