December 6, 2021  |  Agrigenomics

Announcing our plant and animal SMRT Grant winners: Sequencing a pangenome to feed a growing population

2021 Plant and Animal Sciences SMRT Grant Image

Working to revolutionize apple agrigenomics at one of the world’s top orchards

Leading scientists are constantly searching for innovative ways to amplify and apply their research. So, it came as little surprise that we received hundreds of applications from all round the world for our latest PacBio Plant and Animal Sciences SMRT Grant: “Zoom in on Genetic Variation for a Better Future.”

With PacBio’s HiFi sequencing technology, researchers can accelerate genome assembly in the pursuit of building a pangenome – a complete set of genes from all strains descending from a common ancestor in its family tree. These pangenomes provide actionable insights from highly accurate genomic data.

When it comes to studying plants and animals, researchers can use haplotype-resolved genomes to better explore evolutionary and functional variations. With haplotype-resolved pangenomes, scientists are able to impute traits to entire haplotypes, capture structural variants on a population-wide scale, and decipher complex traits that can be desirable for marker development. Due to advancements in agrigenomics, researchers can pursue discoveries that could lead to tangible, impactful and sustainable advances in food security for a growing global population, while boosting biodiversity and helping fight climate change.

This Year’s Plant and Animal SMRT Grant

PacBio’s SMRT Grant Programs support agrigenomics discovery by giving scientists the opportunity to apply for free PacBio sequencing.

This year’s 2021 Plant and Animal SMRT Grant award included the chance to characterize genetic variation in your favorite plant or animal species with HiFi sequencing performed on the ground-breaking Sequel IIe system, with bioinformatics support, SMRTbell library preparation and up to six SMRT Cells 8M. This was also the first SMRT Grant to include high-molecular-weight DNA extraction with Circulomics to celebrate welcoming them to the PacBio family.

The Winners

While we received hundreds of applications, we are very proud to announce that we have awarded this year’s grant to three researchers, including principal investigator, Dr. Sean Myles, at Canada’s Apple Diversity Lab.


The Project

In Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, Sean and his team, which includes researchers Zoë Migicovsky, Sophie Watts and Tom Davies, study the tremendous natural diversity of apples and help breed new varieties that are tasty and require less chemical input to grow. The work they are doing is critical to the future of food production.

With resources awarded from the 2021 Plant and Animal SMRT Grant, Zoë, Sophie, and Tom are planning to sequence and assemble a haplotype-resolved pangenome from apples grown in Canada’s Apple Biodiversity Orchard, which consists of over 1000 unique cultivars and is one of the most diverse orchards in the world. To maximize the number of haplotypes sequenced, they used a tool called SV Collector to identify 10 individuals that accurately represents the genetic diversity of the orchard. After building this robust haplotype-resolved pangenome they plan to use this data to preserve apple biodiversity and better impute complex traits, such as ripening time, flowering time, and sugar content, to genes, structural variants, and more.

We are very excited by the work that the Apple Diversity Lab is undertaking and are proud to support them in their efforts with this year’s Plant & Animal SMRT Grant award.


Alongside the work that we do to support researchers with our technology, we know that when we collaborate we can impact great change. In the spirit of collaboration, we are thankful to the University of Minnesota Genomics Center for joining us as a co-sponsor on this SMRT Grant. UMGC provides the latest and most powerful sequencing platforms, giving researchers a wide range of cutting-edge solutions to fit any project scale, budget, and turnaround.

As a PacBio Certified Service Provider, UMGC undergoes rigorous annual certification to guarantee its clients receive the highest quality data using the most up-to-date workflows. If you’d like to learn more about the genomic services they offer, you can contact their highly skilled scientists.

Congratulations to this year’s winners! Stay tuned – in a few weeks we will publish an exclusive interview we conducted with this year’s winners.
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