Services by Turku Bioscience, part 1: Genomics is the study of genetic variation and genome regulation
Genome research is required in many contexts. The Finnish Functional Genomics Centre at Turku Bioscience, led by Senior Researcher Riikka Lund, offers services for both business and academic research. The world-class services provided by the Centre are also used by state research institutes and hospitals, for example.
In recent years, the Functional Genomics Centre has cooperated extensively with different stakeholders and developed its services to better meet also the needs of the private sector and hospitals in addition to the academic users. The Centre has implemented a quality system and has received its first accreditation for a whole exome and whole genome sequencing method, the results of which can be used for clinical diagnostics and to benefit patients.
The Functional Genomics Centre offers versatile services for genomics research, such as genetic variation and genome function and regulation. Samples examined at the Centre can be from any organism, anything from bacteria and viruses to humans.
— At the moment, our most important piece of equipment is the Illumina Novaseq sequencer that is used for the high-throughput sequencing of genomes and genome products. There are only two of these devices in academic service use in Finland, Riikka Lund says.
At its simplest, a sample can be genomic DNA that the Centre processes and then delivers the raw data for further analyses, so that the service user can see what variants or changes there are in the DNA. Similarly, samples can be analysed for genomic DNA products, such as gene expression and epigenetic regulation. Bacteria research is an emerging field, and the Centre also produces a lot of data for microbiome analyses.
Former biologist-geneticist Lund, who did her doctoral thesis in Riitta Lahesmaa’s group, lived in Great Britain during her postdoc studies. After coming back to Finland, Lund returned to Turku Bioscience to help with the introduction of new technologies, a task she is still involved in.
— My job is very interesting and versatile. In practice, we support research, provide access to technologies and offer our expertise to service users. We maintain and continuously develop these services in our national Biocenter Finland network. We monitor the development of the field, coordinate services and ensure that our units stay up-to-date and that researchers have access to the latest equipment and methods, Lund sums up.
The services of the Centre are available to everyone. In 2021 the Centre processed 32 286 samples or sample plates, by a team of six people at the laboratory. Two persons handle data processing, distribution to users and quality analysis. Service users have the option to come and use some of the equipment, after receiving training on how to use it.
The service units and research groups of Turku Bioscience are closely linked. Lund’s research group is aiming to implement and gather expertise on the most recent methods and technologies. It is a slow process that cannot be done in the routine service unit.
— Our research team uses the most recent methods in its research, and this always involves some risks. Using these methods may also lead to failure, but in the best case scenario, it produces great new results. And if the methods seem promising in the light of these studies, they can be scaled up to more extensive use, Lund explains.
— And of course, research is driven by research questions, Lund points out.