New technology boosts sequencing power to help decode the genome of all life on Earth


The Earlham Institute (EI) has bolstered its high-fidelity, long-read sequencing capability with a state-of-the-art Pacific Biosciences Sequel IIe platform twin set to support Earth BioGenome projects, providing the UK bioscience community with technologies essential for the genomics of biodiversity .

As the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP) gains momentum to sequence, catalog and characterize the genomes of all eukaryotic biodiversity on Earth over the next ten years, global efforts are underway to deploy the technology and infrastructure capable of rapidly providing a large number of quality genomic sequences.

The Sequel IIe platform enables scientists to take genomic analysis to the next level of precision by producing high-fidelity (HiFi) long reads to resolve genomes and transcriptomes.

“The Sequel IIe platforms allow us to extend our existing infrastructure in our contribution to BioGenome sequencing,” said Head of Genomics Pipelines at the Earlham Institute, Dr. Karim Gharbi. “Demand from the UK bioscience community for higher quality genomic references is growing rapidly, with requests for access to HiFi sequence data at an all-time high.

Sequel IIe platforms at the Earlham Institute

Sequel IIe platforms at the Earlham Institute. Credit: Earlham Institute (EI)

“Feedback from early Sequel IIe users in the genomics community has been overwhelmingly positive with the HiFi genomes, outperforming existing resources by at least an order of magnitude. The additional platform will immediately double our sequencing capability of the genome, enabling continuous and cost-effective access to HiFi readouts for IE researchers and UK bioscientists.

In recent years, the Earlham Institute has made strategic investments in genomic technologies, ushering in a new era in biology where high-quality, richly annotated genomic sequences are no longer the exception but increasingly Standard.

Earlham Institute Director Professor Neil Hall added: “Earth BioGenome Project initiatives are highly collaborative, but the technology and infrastructure capable of producing high-quality genomes at scale must be ensured. Earlham Institute’s additional HiFi capability for analysis of protist genomes strengthens our position in the global initiative as a leader in genome sequencing.

These sequencing technologies support several national and international initiatives with the Earlham Institute as the lead research partner including the Vertebrate Genomes Project, the Darwin Tree of Life (DTOL) Project and the European Reference Genome Atlas (ERGA) provide key sequencing data and analyzes for a wide range of organisms and support an ambitious program to catalog the biodiversity of single-celled eukaryotes (protists).*

“Key to this investment was the early adoption of the long, high-quality (HiFi) sequencing platform (Pacific Biosciences Sequel II) in 2019, before the Earlham Institute finally acquired the instrument with funding support from the BBSRC,” added Dr. Gharbi. “This technology has enabled Institute researchers to quickly obtain high-quality genomic references for key target species and establish EI as a leading center in biogenome research.”


*As part of the Wellcome-funded DToL project, the Earlham Institute is also leading the development of new tools to construct high-quality genomes from single-celled eukaryotes. At the core of this technology are platforms and pipelines for isolated protist species from environmental populations to increase efficiency and reduce the cost of library preparation from single cells.


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