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We are living in an exciting time for genetic discovery. From USB stick-sized portable DNA readers, usable by anyone, anywhere; to DNA barcodes enabling rapid identification of bacteria, and even humans. Join us to find out more about these new technologies and the opportunity to fight infectious diseases and learn more about ourselves.
How can we use portable DNA sequencing to fight infectious diseases?
Professor Nicholas Loman (Professor of Microbial Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of Birmingham)
DNA sequencing is like a microscope for observing evolution. Even in timescales of weeks and months, microbes that cause infection and disease evolve measurably. We can use this information to help us understand how cases in an outbreak or epidemic relate to each other. Recently technical breakthroughs have enabled sequencing to be carried out with a device no bigger than a USB stick, attached to a standard laptop. Professor Loman will discuss exciting opportunities for battling infectious diseases, as well as the risks if we cannot work out how to share data in a way that benefits society.
Google for your DNA
The scale of the genome (the genetic information) from any organism is mind-boggling. For example, your genome is over a meter long and contains 3 billion base pairs, or ‘letters’. If the genome were a book, we wouldn’t read the entire thing, letter by letter to figure out where it came from. The book has a title, or an ISBN, that defines it. Yet we currently sequence (read base-by-base) a genome in order to identify an organism. I’ll describe an alternative to DNA sequencing, a DNA barcode that can be imaged and used to understand genomes in new ways.