Credit: Warren Umoh via Unsplash

UofG graduate sets Guinness World Record for fastest DNA sequencing

By Kate McIntosh

Professor Ashley and his team at Stanford University set the record of sequencing a human genome in five hours and two minutes.

University of Glasgow graduate Professor Euan Ashley is part of a team of scientists at Stanford University in California who have set the first Guinness World Record for the fastest DNA sequencing technique. The team managed to sequence an entire human genome in just five hours and two minutes, the result of a mammoth effort combining state-of-the-art technology, cloud computing, algorithms, and the time-honoured method of running to the laboratory with the latest samples.

Professor Ashley graduated from UofG with a medical degree in 1996 and obtained a PhD from the University of Oxford in 2002, before training as a cardiologist at Stanford. He is now a professor of medicine, genetics and biomedical data science at the institution, and was named the Roger and Joelle Burnell Chair of Genomics and Precision Health last year. His popular science book The Genome Odyssey was published in September 2021 and praised as a “wonderful page-turner” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and scientist Siddhartha Mukherjee.

From the rapid sequencing, Professor Ashley and his team were also able to make extremely fast diagnoses of genetic diseases – diagnoses using the method took, on average, just eight hours. This could be game-changing, especially when rolled out more widely.

As well as Professor Ashley, various other Stanford researchers worked on the project – which has resulted in the publication of a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine – as did scientists from Google; University of California, Santa Cruz; Oxford Nanopore Technology; and Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. The lead author of the paper was postdoctoral genetics researcher Dr. John Gorzynski.

On the day the paper was published, Professor Ashley tweeted, “This was a herculean effort from conception to completion in under a year and there are not enough words in the English language for me to tell you how proud I am of this team.”


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