Transversal activities in applied genomics

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Generate knowledge and develop tools tailored to face current and future health challenges

We are a transversal unit developing and implementing molecular biology and bioinformatics applications to perform both routine analyses, and scientific and technological research. By setting up internal and external partnerships, we generate new knowledge and tools tailored to face and anticipate the current and future challenges affecting human and animal health. This includes activities in the domain of molecular detection, identification and characterisation of micro-organisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungi), biotech plants and human nucleic acid biomarkers, using high-tech equipment (e.g. real time PCR, Sanger and NGS sequencers).

We work in a cross-cutting manner for all the different services of Sciensano and respond to their specific needs in terms of biotechnology and bio-informatics. We perform ‘routine analyses’ for them, using the latest technological equipment, (DNA sequencers, real-time PCR instruments) and our mastery of the most advanced laboratory techniques. At the same time, we perform scientific and technological research work to perfect genetic analysis tools tailored to given needs. More precisely, our platform hosts expertise-centered teams focusing on virology, bacteriology/mycology, and human/plant. The latter includes a laboratory specialised in the detection and identification of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in particular those present in food and feed. 

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In addition to the transversal services that we offer to other units (e.g. centralisation of high-tech equipment and sequencing, bioinformatics analysis, training, expertise and scientific support in molecular biology and bioinformatics), our unit develops and validates new methods and continually seeks to improve them. We coordinate and participate in research projects in partnership with in-house and external experts in order to find effective and appropriate responses to current and future human and animal health challenges. To this end, we apply the most advanced technologies such as real-time PCR, high resolution melting, digital PCR, bead arrays (Luminex) and massive parallel sequencing (‘next generation sequencing’, NGS) in a large range of health applications. We develop the most appropriate, state-of-the-art and user-friendly data analysis tools for these methods, including for NGS. Our platform hosts a sequencing facility (Sanger and NGS), running under a quality assurance system.

Our laboratory specialised in GMO carries out laboratory analysis and research, focusing on the detection, identification and quantification of GMOs present in particular in food and feed under a quality assurance system (ISO17025). In this context, we contribute to the development and the validation of new standardised methods at national and international levels.

In Belgium, our main partners are the national reference laboratories and centers of Sciensano, the FPS Public Health and the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC), as well as several universities, through the conduct of PhD and other research projects. At the European and international levels, we work with the Institut Pasteur International Network, the ‘Molecular biology and genomic’ unit of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, and are part of the European Network of GMO Laboratories .

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We have a broad experience in the detection, identification and quantification GMO in food and feed under ISO 17025 accreditation. We are an approved lab by the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC).

We also provide specific services on request:

  • Courses/training on molecular biology and bioinformatics
  • Service provision:
    • Sanger sequencing under ISO17025:2005 accreditation (081-TEST)
    • NGS sequencing on MiSEQ Illumina instrument (whole genome sequencing of microbes, amplicon sequencing) or other technologies (via collaborations and outsourcing
    • GMO analysis in food and feed:  various strategies applied on EU authorised GMO using EU validated methods under ISO17025:2005 accreditation and unauthorised GMO (qPCR method, DNA walking, NGS)
    • Custom data analysis solutions including first line bioinformatic analysis as well as downstream phylogenetic and evolutionary analysis
  • Core facility on the use of high-tech molecular biology instruments (Luminex Magpix, Digital Droplet PCR, Tapestation 4200, Bioanalyzer 2100 …)
  • Research and expertise provision involving molecular biology on nucleic acids, bioinformatics (method development, method validation, full research projects)

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