NEWS | June 8, 2011

Chinese genomics giant BGI and UC Davis form partnership


The University of California, Davis, and BGI, the world's largest genome sequencing institute, agreed yesterday to form a partnership to conduct large-scale genome sequencing and functional genomics programs, focusing initially on the areas of food security; human and animal health and wellness; and biodiversity and environmental health.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and BGI Director Jian Wang signed a formal agreement to establish the BGI@UC Davis Partnership during a meeting in Shenzhen, one of China's Special Economic Zones.

"This partnership will bring together the unique strengths of two world-class institutions," Katehi said. "BGI's resources in genome sequencing and bioinformatics, combined with UC Davis' expertise in biology, medicine, agriculture and the environment, will bring advantages to both partners as we take on crucial issues in food, health and sustainability."

BGI's Wang added: "Genomics is laying the foundation for the future research of biology, and this cooperation plays a significant role in the development of science and education between the two sides. It's necessary to build a new creative model for multiple-skilled talents in genomics for the future. In the past several years, BGI has invented a new model to train excellent professionals that is efficient both at up-to-date scientific knowledge and practical skills in life sciences."

Genomics is a discipline of biology concerning the study of the genome, or all the genes of an organism. The field includes intensive efforts to determine the genomes of plants, animals, microbes and other living things, as a way to better understand how they grow, develop and function.

"UC Davis is already a powerhouse of research in biomedical and environmental sciences, and this partnership will help drive us to the next level," said Harris Lewin, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. "This new partnership will make possible entirely new insights into genome evolution, microbial ecology, plant biology, host-pathogen interactions and human diseases."

As envisioned in the formal agreement, UC Davis faculty and students will gain access to the capabilities and expertise of one of the world's premier genomics and bioinformatics companies, while BGI researchers will be able to access the university's diverse resources and expertise in education and research, especially in biology, human and veterinary medicine, agriculture and the environment.

In the coming months, representatives of BGI and UC Davis will work out a detailed agreement for the partnership that in the future will bring to UC Davis DNA sequencing instruments and bioinformatics specialists -- scientists who apply statistics and computer science to molecular biology.

UC Davis is internationally recognized as a leader in research in agriculture, food security, food science and technology, and biological sciences. The campus includes a medical school and teaching hospital ranked in the top 50 in the U.S., one of the nation's foremost veterinary medical schools, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and a National Institutes of Health-funded Clinical and Translational Science Center. More than 800 UC Davis faculty members are dedicated to research in biology, studying organisms from microbes to forest trees, tomatoes to elephants.

BGI was founded in 1999 as the Beijing Genomics Institute. It now has several branches and subsidiaries including: BGI-Shenzhen, a nonprofit research institute; BGI-Hong Kong, a private institute that manages international collaborations and transfers profits to BGI; and BGI-Americas, located in Boston, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary and announced new joint projects with the Broad Institute and the United Kingdom. BGI has about 4,000 employees and the capacity to sequence the equivalent of 1,600 complete human genomes each day.

About UC Davis
For more than 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has more than 32,000 students, more than 2,500 faculty and more than 21,000 staff, an annual research budget that exceeds $678 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges -- Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science. It also houses six professional schools -- Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.