TechTalk Genomics: beating diseases with on-the-spot diagnostics

  • What are the latest developments in the field of genomics?
  • And what kinds of problems can we solve in the future?

Nine brief ‘Pecha Kucha’-style presentations at the Leiden Bio Science Park TechTalk Genomics in January offered a broad overview of both current and future possibilities. Such as DNA sequencing for medical purposes. Technological developments will make sequencing on-the-spot – with faster diagnostics – a serious option in the near future.

Three examples of genomics applications from Leiden: in wildlife forensics, in next generation sequencing and in clinical diagnostics.

Tracing rhinoceros poachers

Wildlife forensics is a completely different type of applied genomics. In her presentation Barbara Gravendeel, researcher at Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Generade, talks about her work on tracing the taxonomic identity and geographic origin of illegally traded wildlife. “By analysing isotopes in products made of rhinoceros horn material, for example, we can identify where the animal was born and where and when it was killed. Recently our investigations led to the imprisonment of two Tanzanian poachers.” Gravendeel combines her passion for natural history collections with modern science. “It’s enormously satisfying to develop innovations using museum specimens collected over 400 years ago!”

Genomics for everyone

Derek Butler is director of genome analysis at BaseClear, a contract research laboratory for DNA-based analyses using next generation sequencing technologies. ”As a teenager I read about transferring a fragment of DNA from one bacterium to another, thus changing its characteristics. This led to a fascination with molecular biology and more recently genome sequencing technologies. Now I’m using the power of this technology to help identify the source of a recent EHEC-bacteria outbreak, for example.” Butler foresees an enormous increase in the number of applications for which genomics will be used, also by the general public. “Very soon people will be ordering kits to analyse the microbiological condition of their own body.”

Mass sequencing

Mark de Jong, lab manager at GenomeScan, develops technologies to improve clinical diagnostics. “In modern medicine, a general diagnosis is no longer adequate because different subtypes of diseases may respond differently to a given drug. Genetic tests can reveal the exact subtype of a patient’s condition, which helps to determine a personalised treatment plan.” This type of diagnostics asks for the analysis of huge amounts of biomaterial. It takes mass sequencing of many samples, too much for any individual hospital lab to accomplish. “By combining sample work in larger batches, we can lower the costs per sample dramatically. It’s a necessary step to increase the quality of the analysis.” Originally a scientist, De Jong now flourishes in an entrepreneurial setting in which he can commercialise new technology. His goal: facilitating doctors to apply personalised medicine.

TechTalks are regular R&D meetings organised by LURIS and Leiden Bio Science Park Foundation.
This TechTalk Genomics was a joint production with Hogeschool Leiden/CBD, Generade and Boerhaave Nascholing.


Here is a link to the video showing a overview of the TechTalk Genomics at February. Please find all Pecha Kucha video's of this TechTalk Genomics below this article.

From left to right: Mark de Jong, Barbara Gravendeel and Derek Butler.

Genomics in Leiden

ZF Genomics
(This overview is derived of the international Biotechgate Life Science database at the Leiden Bio Science Park website that features specialisations of Leiden based companies and organisations. Is your company/organisation missing in this overview, please use the add/update option at the bottom of the page.)

TechTalk Genomics videos

Videos of the Pecha kucha presentations at the TechTalk Genomics.

Genomics Technology
Christaan Henkel, Generade
Derek Butler, Baseclear

Genomics in a Diagnostic Laboratory
Louis Kroes, LUMC
Mark de Jong, GenomeScan

Genomics and Drug Development
Mirena Nouwen, ProQR Therapeutics

Genomics and Big data
Erik Schultes, LIACS, Leiden University

Genomics in Microbiology
Wiep Klaas Smits, LUMC

Genomics and Wildlife Forensics
Barbara Gravendeel, Generade/HSLeiden/Naturalis

Interviews by Marc van Bijsterveldt, photo by Frank Hoyinck