The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has relaunched its sequencing, genotyping and oligosynthesis platform (Segolip) service unit in Nairobi due to meet increasing demand for sequencing services from researchers in Africa.
Established in 1993, the Segolip Unit is ILRI’s maincentralized sequencing facility. It was set up to meet the needs of scientists using molecular techniques to sequence animal DNA samples and as a platform to carry out molecular analyses of samples from plants, and animal pathogens which would otherwise be sent outside Kenya. It was also set up to serve neighbouring countries, which can use the facility for gene sequencing rather than send samples out of Africa. The process of sending biological samples out of the continent is not only time consuming but is also costly leading to delayed milestones in projects. Since 1993, the unit’s client portfolio has included research institutes and universities across the globe, with the bulk of its support given to scientists and students working in Kenya and eastern Africa.
The sequencing, genotyping and oligosynthesis platform renders capillary electrophoresis for Sanger sequencing and microsatellite (fragment and sequence) analysis, KASP genotyping and automated DNA extractions of samples at a cost to institutions in Kenya, the region and beyond.
‘We have a quick turnaround time, with a maximum of five working days depending on the type of service the client requires,’ says Lucy Muthui, the service unit coordinator. ‘Our service package includes providing valuable technical advice on sample preparations and purification, quality control and linking clients with our in-house bioinformatics team for additional data analysis support,’ she adds. The service unit also supports permit application to facilitate sample shipment and thrives on one-to one-client relationships.
Gerald Mkoji, public health researcher at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) attests to the quality services provided by the unit. Mkoji is working on schistosomiasis or bilharzia, a neglected tropical disease that is caused by parasites transmitted through freshwater snails. ‘For several years I used the Segolip Unit at ILRI for microsatellite fragment analysis and oligo-synthesis in my research. It is the only facility of its kind in Kenya and it provided excellent services at a reliable and affordable cost.’
Collins Mutai, an ILRI research officer who works on the isolation and characterization of plant-associated bacteria and fungi depends on the Sanger sequencing provided by the unit to obtain molecular identities of the bacterial and fungal isolates. ‘An in-house sequencing service like Segolip is quite handy because it enables us to consult with its expert staff but also get feedback quickly from them. They are also willing to optimizing their processes when needed to help us do our research, which external companies may not be willing to do for a few hundred samples.’
Josephine Birungi, head of technology at ILRI Biosciences, says the revamp of the service unit will help meet increased demands from former and new clients who want DNA sequencing services that are close to their work and projects. ‘We go beyond offering just samples analyses to giving technical support to ensure that our clients generate quality data for the benefit of researchers and ultimately, project beneficiaries.’