October 23, 2019

UAMS Researchers Demonstrate Rapid DNA Sequencing for TechFest Attendees

By David Robinson

UAMS' David Ussery, Ph.D., speaks to a group of people

UAMS’ David Ussery, Ph.D., far left, led the TechFest workshop on portable genome sequencing.

UAMS’ David Ussery, Ph.D., led a workshop at the Oct. 9-11 event that highlighted recent advances in genomic sequencing, including its potential for saving lives during disease outbreaks.

Large, immobile gene sequencing devices that require days to produce results are still the standard, but UAMS researchers are developing techniques using pocket-sized devices that can provide rapid genetic sequencing of multiple human viruses.

Ussery, a professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Biomedical Informatics and Department of Physiology and Biophysics, noted that UAMS recently led an international team that was the first to deploy a hand-held nanopore device for rapid genetic sequencing. The study results were published in February in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

During the workshop, “Big Data Comes to Biology: Portable Genome Sequencing,” Ussery said DNA sequencing will soon be possible from the handheld devices connected to a smart phone. Ussery is also director of the Arkansas Center for Genomic and Epidemiology Medicine at UAMS (ArC-GEM).

Attendees witnessed a demonstration of the device by UAMS’ Thidathip (Tip) Wongsurawat, Ph.D., and Piroon Jenjaroenpun, Ph.D., who developed the technique described in the Frontiers in Microbiology publication. By harnessing the technology in this way, it sets the stage for rapid virus tracking where it is often needed the most — in undeveloped areas across the globe.

UAMS was well represented among the conference speakers. In addition to Ussery, UAMS speakers and their presentation titles included:

  • Fred Prior, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Biomedical Informatics, “Opportunities to Collaborate with UAMS in the Development of Emerging Digital Health Technologies”
  • Kevin W. Sexton, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, the Department of Biomedical Informatics, and the Department of Health Policy and Management, Opportunities to collaborate with UAMS in the development of emerging digital health technologies
  • Anita Walden, M.S., instructor, Department of Biomedical Informatics and Center for Health Literacy; and Jennifer Gan, research faculty at the UAMS Center for Health Literacy, “How Usable is Your App or Device??”
  • Jennifer Gan, research faculty at the UAMS Center for Health Literacy, “How to Improve your Digital App for a Global Community”