MBL scientist awarded next-generation DNA sequencer to monitor water quality

May 18th, 2010
Mitchell Sogin of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) has been awarded the Dr. Gordon Moore Environmental Grant from Ion Torrent of Guilford, Conn., and San Francisco.

As part of the grant, Sogin will receive an Ion PGM sequencer, a DNA sequencing system that directly translates chemical signals (A, C, G, T) into digital information (0, 1) on a semiconductor chip. The result is a sequencing system that is simpler, faster, less expensive, and more scalable than any other technology available, which will keep the MBL at the cutting edge of gene sequencing technology.

"We received hundreds of grant applications across all areas of life sciences, environmental sciences and healthcare," said Jonathan Rothberg, CEO and founder of Ion Torrent. The two winning applicants, including Sogin, "offered innovative solutions in two areas of pressing social need today—human healthcare and the environment," Rothberg said.

Sogin is director of the MBL's Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution. He will use the ION sequencer to develop technology for water-quality monitoring, in order to more accurately and rapidly identify both the source and extent of contamination from sources such as human sewage and agricultural run-off.

"In the field of environmental public health, water quality remains an enormous challenge," said Jonathan Patz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007 for his work on climate change. "Even in our developed United States, water-borne diseases are far more prevalent than people realize. Tracing the sources of pollution so they can be eliminated, as Dr. Sogin proposes to do by the sequencing of DNA, has always been a weak link in our public health investigations that needs to be addressed."

"DNA sequencing has always been the ideal choice for water monitoring, but the cost and time-to-result have been prohibitive," said Sogin. "Ion Torrent has the potential to make a huge impact in water quality, because it's so affordable and provides results so rapidly. This technology will ultimately lead to better water quality around the world and save lives."

Provided by Marine Biological Laboratory

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