Local scientists speed up virus’ genome sequencing

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, May 09, 2013 - Page 5

Two National Chiao Tung University professors on Tuesday said they have developed a new technique that significantly reduces the time and money required to carry out virus genome sequencing, which is expected to speed up the process and cut the cost of developing vaccines and anti-viral drugs.

The technique can be used in the fields of genome research, preventive medicine and the development of personalized medicine, in which medical treatment is customized on the basis of the patient’s genetic code, the researchers said.

The technique cuts down the time it takes to sequence a virus’ genome to one hour instead of one day, and reduces the cost of the process from US$5,000 to about US$500, said Steven Huang (黃國華), a professor at the university’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

The research, conducted by Huang and Chen Yu-shiun (陳昱勳), a professor at the school’s Department of Biology Science and Technology, is to be published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology this month.

Huang said current sequencing techniques require the use of fluorescence and other external aids to enable the reading of polymerase synthesis, but his and Chen’s method requires no external aids and reduces the error rate to nearly zero.

Huang said he has applied for a patent for the sequencing technique that is pending approval, adding that he expects the new method will replace the current methods because it is more affordable, accurate and faster.