Despite the many challenges academic institutions have faced in 2020, the Vermont Integrative Genetics Resource (VIGR) shared core facility at the University of Vermont Cancer Center and Larner College of Medicine has achieved strong funding support and achieved some significant milestones over the past six months.
Led by Director Julie Dragon, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, VIGR serves scientists from across the university, state, and country. It is an umbrella for four shared resource facilities—DNA Analysis; Microarray; Massively Parallel Sequencing; and Bioinformatics—meant to amplify the intersectional nature of the work across resources. Staffing the first three facilities are Scott Tighe, director of technologies, Jessica Hoffman, senior technician, and Pheobe Laaguiby, M.S., laboratory technician. The Bioinformatics facility is staffed by Koren Eckstrom, M.S., and John Hanley, Ph.D.
Dragon, Tighe and Bernard (Chip) Cole, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and statistics and director of the Vermont Space Grant Consortium/National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/EPSCoR program, received a $100,000 NASA/EPSCoR International Space Station Flight Opportunity grant to collaborate with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on “optimization of a one-step, small footprint nucleotide extraction device for DNA/RNA extraction under space conditions.” They also received a $575,000 Army Visual and Tactical Arctic Reconnaissance (AVATAR) award as part of a UVM and U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) Partnership initiative that aims to develop microbial geomapping using metagenomics DNA sequencing to identify biological photoactive molecules inherent to the natural environment detectable by high performance aerial imaging with resolution to enable tracking of disturbance of the environment.
Tighe was recently a coauthor on a Nature Medicine paper published by members of the MetaSUB consortium and titled “Cartography of opportunistic pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes in a tertiary hospital environment.” As one of five consortium members leading the methods and protocol development sub-group for microbiome techniques using next generation sequencing, Tighe used the Larner College of Medicine-funded Oxford Nanopore Sequencer for this project.
In addition to sequencing the entire genome of the Mysis ‘shrimp’—important components of Lake Champlain—with Matthew Wargo, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, the team also sequenced the genomes of two Cannibis indica strains using this instrument for a cancer research study led by Jeffrey Spees, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and UVM Cancer Center member. The project aims to “clone biosynthetic enzymes for cannabinoids, terpenes, and sesquiterpenes, including CBD, CBC, THC, CBDV, THCV, and others,” said Dragon.
Visit the VIGR website.