October 29, 2021  |  Microbial sequencing methods

Our Latest SMRT Grant Winner: HiFi Sequencing to Understand Microbial World

2021 Microbial SMRT Grant image
At PacBio, we understand the profound importance of microbial research. As the foundation of the biosphere and major determinants of human health, microbes claim a primary, fundamental role in life on earth. Microbes account for most of the diversity of life on our planet, yet fewer than 1% have been identified. To understand this ever-evolving world, scientists need the unbiased, accurate, and comprehensive information that only PacBio long-read sequencing can provide.
Our commitment to research has been shown through our 2021 Microbial Genomics SMRT Grant Program. Applicants were invited to apply for a chance to win free sequencing by our Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT) technology that provides the highly accurate long reads – HiFi reads – necessary to capture any microbe in high resolution.
We’re proud to announce the winner of this year’s 2021 Microbial Genomics SMRT Grant Program. While there were hundreds of submissions this year from all around the globe, only a select few could be chosen. Congratulations to these innovative scientists leading the future of microbial research.

Winner: Mark Nicol

Mark Nicol
Institution: The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Project Goal: Species-level profiling of the upper respiratory microbiota to predict asthma in young children

We have previously done several studies using short-read 16S sequencing to characterise respiratory tract microbial communities in children with pneumonia and chronic lung disease. A major frustration has been the inability to obtain species-level information on taxa associated with illness. Species level discrimination is key in this niche, pathogenicity resides at the species, not the genus level. We are optimistic that the accurate species-level profiling which we will obtain from PacBio HiFi data will give us novel insights into the pathogenesis of wheezing in young children, and help us identify microbial biomarkers of risk of progression to asthma
— Mark Nicol

The respiratory microbiome in early life has been linked to the later development of asthma. However, associations are at the genus level, with poor understanding of how individual bacterial species may predispose to wheezing. With the help of PacBio long-read sequencing, Mark and his team hope to determine species-specific associations with the wheezing phenotype.
Sequencing for this project will be provided by the PacBio Certified Service Provider Maryland Genomics.
Maryland Genomics logo


Runner Up: Stephen Techtmann

Stephen TechtmannInstitution: Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, USA
Project Goal: Division of labor in plastic processing microbial communities

We’re excited to be working with PacBio to generate high quality assemblies of the members of these microbial consortia. Having complete genomes from these metagenomes will help us to better characterize how these communities are breaking down the plastic inputs so that we can better engineer these communities to increase efficiency. These high quality assemblies will help us to find novel solutions to deal with plastic waste and inform how we might be able to use these microbial communities for food production.
— Stephen Techtmann

Plastic pollution poses major issues for our environment. HiFi sequencing is opening doors to potentially develop a series of enriched microbial consortia that are able to grow to high densities using thermal and chemically treated plastic waste and rapidly breakdown deconstructed plastics. Stephen (@stechtmann) and his team hope that high quality metagenome assembled genomes can assist in modeling the flow of carbon through a community.

Congratulations to our 2021 Microbial Genomics SMRT Grant Program winners! And thank you to our co-sponsor for teaming up with PacBio to make these SMRT Grants possible. Explore the 2021 SMRT Grant Programs to apply to have your project funded.
If you’re interested in reading about the work PacBio does in Microbiology, explore our microbiology page dedicated to sequencing the microbial world with confidence.

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