May 4, 2016  |  General

Eco-friendly Soil Remediation Gets a Boost with the Latest SMRT Grant Program Winner

Congratulations to the winner of the first-ever SMRT Grant program decided by the community: Renying Zhuo of the Chinese Academy of Forestry!
We ran polling through our Genome Galaxy Initiative on the Experiment crowdfunding platform and were amazed to see much how it galvanized the genomics community. There were 30,000+ responses to the competition across the five finalists for our “Explore Your Most Interesting Genome” grant opportunity. Zhuo garnered the most support for his project to sequence two highly related strains of Sedum alfredii for a comparative genomics investigation to identify key genes important for remediating soil contaminated by heavy metals. This project could be applied to address cadmium ion pollution, a growing concern within rapidly industrializing nations.
The remaining finalists have a second chance to earn funding by launching their projects through a special crowdfunding event. The runners-up will kick off their campaigns through Experiment, and we sincerely hope that supporters of these worthy projects come back to help. Every donation makes a difference! And, donations are only accepted when projects meet their crowdfunding goal.  Here’s a quick look at the projects now open for contributions:
The Amazing & Enigmatic Alpaca
Investigator: Kylie Munyard, Curtin University
According to Munyard’s proposal, the economically important alpacas are of great scientific interest on a number of fronts, and producing a reference genome will enable new studies in both agricultural and biomedical research. Alpacas are a good model for diabetes research; they have innate mechanisms to stay free of parasites; their distant relationship to other agricultural animals makes them good for comparative study; and much more.
Sequencing an Extremophile Earthworm
Investigator: Luis Cunha, Cardiff University
This project would sequence the extraordinary earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus, which lives in a volcanic geothermal field with high exposure to toxic gases, extreme temperatures, and very little oxygen. Cunha’s proposal notes that preliminary work with draft assemblies indicates significant levels of horizontal gene transfer that could be better characterized with SMRT Sequencing.
Scar-Free Regeneration in the Spiny Mouse
Investigator: William Barbazuk, University of Florida
According to this proposal, the adult spiny mouse is the only known mammal with the unique ability to regenerate skin and organs after wounds without any scars or other indications of trauma, making this organism interesting for regenerative medicine. Barbazuk hypothesizes novel genes, alternatively-spliced isoforms, and gene expression regulators are responsible. He aims to use SMRT Sequencing to study the transcriptome of spiny mouse and its wound-healing properties.
Highlighting Firefly: A Genome Resource
Investigator: Jing-Ke Weng, MIT
This project would help a large consortium of researchers generate a high-quality genome assembly for Photinus pyralis, an American firefly. Weng’s proposal notes that the 2,000-plus species of these charismatic flashing beetles have been understudied, and that the biological mechanisms behind important traits such as bioluminescence remain unknown.
The PacBio team is very grateful to the scientific community and their supporters, as well as our co-sponsors for this grant program: Sage Science, Computomics, RTL Genomics, Texas A&M AgriLife Genomics and Bioinformatics Service, and Experiment.

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