Sequencing The Way Forward: The Genomics Facility Acquires the PacBio Sequel IIe

The Monash University Malaysia (MUM) School of Science continues to demonstrate their commitment to education innovation, and ensuring that their students receive a learning experience that is dynamic, contemporary, and on par with the latest scientific technological developments.

The PacBio Sequel IIe equipment.

The Genomics Facility is a key personification of the above qualities, having recently acquired the PacBio Sequel IIe. The PacBio Sequel IIe system will enable students and researchers of MUM to capture a large variety of genetic variations from living organisms and further study and understanding of DNA variations and evolution in human and non-human species, including microbes. The equipment is the latest generation of award-winning long read sequencing instruments released by PacBio. It is the first of its kind in Malaysia, and the Monash University Malaysia Genomics Facility is the first in the Southeast Asian region to acquire this new DNA sequencing technology.

The vast, yet detailed capacity of the instrument to generate high quality sequencing data for human and non-human species will stand to support and elevate undergraduate teaching and postgraduate research efforts by the MUM School of Science and Genomics Facility and result in high impact publications. Prof Qasim Ayub, Deputy Head of School  (Research), and Director of the MUM Genomics Facility, shares that the PacBio Sequel IIe System “generates long stretches of chemical base sequences that constitute the genetic material, or genome, present inside every cell of our bodies. The highly accurate long-reads generated by this technology enables us to assemble the genome from scratch, without the need for any reference”. 

Professor Qasim Ayub, Deputy Head of School (Research) and Director of the MUM Genomics Facility.

With the PacBio Sequel IIe, the MUM Genomics Facility will be closer to launching the Malaysian BioGenome Project, an initiative that aims to work with the National Wildlife Forensic Laboratory, Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) to sequence high-quality reference genomes for endemic Malaysian species. This project builds upon the existing collaborations between MUM, the Vertebrate Genomes Project and the Earth BioGenome Project and can stand to have notable impacts on efforts to aid forensic and conservation efforts of Malaysian species. In the field of human genetics, the PacBio Sequel IIe system will allow students and researchers to examine genetic variations in diseased and healthy individuals, as well as enable research of under-represented indigenous communities and populations from Malaysia, as well as from the greater Asian region. Using the PacBio Sequel IIe instrument in the above research could yield remarkable results and impact as the equipment is able to capture elusive structural variations that are often missed by the more common short-read sequencing technologies, which may underlie many inherited diseases and traits in humans, animals and plants. The acquisition of this equipment also demonstrates the MUM School of Science’s commitment to the national digital transformation agenda to drive growth as outlined in the Twelfth Malaysia Plan 2021-2025.

The work enabled by the PacBio Sequel IIe is sure to have an enormously positive impact on the research efforts and environmental conservation efforts of the School of Science, and will ensure the work lives on and contributes far beyond the short-term. As Prof Qasim Ayub puts it, “the biggest impact of sequencing long-reads will be on the assembly of high quality genomes that will contribute towards a digital library of life on earth that will be preserved for posterity.” Armed with the PacBio Sequel IIe, the student and staff of the MUM School of Science will produce students with analytical skills in big data analysis, and will continue to elevate the profile of the School of Science in the ASEAN region and beyond.