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A European 3D genomics project coordinated by Dr. Modesto Orozco, researcher at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), will receive €3 millions in funding under one of the actions of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. The project is expected to last three years.

The study is being conducted by a consortium of six global leaders, which will work to standardize the way 3D genomics experiments are executed at large research facilities. Two other Catalan organizations, in addition to the IRB, are also participating: the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) and the National Center for Genomic Analysis-Center for Genomic Regulation (CNAG-CRG). The other participants are the Institute of Human Genetics of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, the University of Nottingham and the European Bioinformatics Institute.

Genomics is one of the fastest developing fields of biology. Previously, biologists had worked in the field of genomics to obtain the genome sequence (one dimension) and predict how changes in DNA fragments are connected to certain pathologies. Dr. Orozco warns that analyzing sequences is valuable but not enough to understand a specific disease.

Now the aim is to go from sequencing to understanding how chromatin –DNA condensed inside a cell– is folded into the space and how the folding structure can provide information on how DNA works. 3D genomics provides information about how DNA changes over time and in response to cell conditions. “With the 3D vision of DNA… I believe that we will start to find explanations for a lot of statistically relevant information deposited in databases but that has escaped our understanding until now,” explains Orozco.

Modesto Orozco highlights that “It is essentially a methodological project,” meaning the aim is to store data and create methodologies and processes to establish a network that can find meaning in all of the studies that are now underway and standardize experiments so they can be repeated. Orozco admits that the techniques are very new and not mature yet. “This makes the field unstable, above all with respect to the reproducibility of results,” he adds.

Sources from the IRB Barcelona told Biocat that the consortium isn't a large association of partners; it has been created with the centers needed to make the project efficient. In fact, the consortium has a proven track record, as the teams have worked together before. 

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