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BGI, GMU, Mass. Eye and Ear and OUHSC announce agreement to sequence 100 human adenoviruses

Boston, MA, Manassas, VA, Oklahoma City, OK and Shenzhen, China -- May 2, 2012 Representatives from BGI, the world's largest genomics organization, in conjunction with George Mason University (GMU), the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (Mass. Eye and Ear) and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC), jointly announce that they have signed an agreement to sequence 100 human adenoviruses gathered from researchers globally, including ones that cause respiratory, gastrointestinal and ocular diseases. The goal of the sequencing project is to identify the molecular basis of adenovirus evolution, including base changes and genome recombinations, and to understand the genome basis for adenovirus pathogenicity and its role in the genesis of emergent pathogens.

Human adenoviruses (HAdVs), first isolated in 1953, are DNA viruses that were initially identified as respiratory pathogens but are now known to cause a range of diseases, including ocular, gastrointestinal and metabolic disorders. Respiratory adenoviruses typically generate cold-like symptoms, aka "the uncommon cold", that can spread broadly and rapidly among a population, but normally pose low levels of fatalities. Since 1953, 67 new types of HAdVs have been isolated. Extensive genome sequence data from both newly isolated and archived HAdVs, and their accompanying bioinformatics, are leading to an in-depth understanding of the biology of HAdVs, including how novel viral pathogens appear.

Genome recombination plays an important role in the molecular evolution of HAdVs, leading to newly emerging strains as well as re-emerging pathogens that have changed or become more virulent. As an example, a recent outbreak of respiratory infections in China raised public concerns and unfounded rumors of a SARS outbreak, but genomic analysis definitively identified the outbreak as a respiratory tract infection caused by adenovirus type 55. An outbreak of Ad55 was identified earlier in China in 2006 and genomic analysis of this recent Ad55 virus revealed only 12 mutations from the 2006 strain, indicating they are from the same lineage.

"While genome mutations and recombinations of DNA viruses like HAdVs are less common than observed for RNA viruses, when they do occur, the resultant virus may be a new and different pathogen," stated Dr. Donald Seto, Professor in the School of Systems Biology at GMU. "With whole genome sequencing provided by BGI, we will be able to answer how these viruses change over time, including how fast, enabling researchers to identify emerging pathogens, develop effective treatments, including vaccines, and begin to understand how to predict pathogens."

Included among the investigators are scientists working at the School of Systems Biology at GMU, the Department of Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at OUHSC.

"We welcome this opportunity to work with this consortium and its global collaborators on the sequencing of 100 human adenoviruses," stated Yingrui Li, Vice Director of BGI. "By applying BGI's state-of-the-art whole genome sequencing and analysis to these HAdVs, we believe we will make a significant contribution to identifying the evolution of adenovirus mutations and recombinations, and to an increased understanding of the genomic basis of their disease effects in humans."

All intellectual property resulting from this project will be shared by BGI, Mass. Eye and Ear, OUHSC, GMU and their collaborators. Upon completion of the sequencing and analysis of the 100 HAdVs, the findings will be co-authored by all in a paper to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.


Contact: Jia Liu
BGI Shenzhen

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