The Laboratoire national de santé (LNS) and the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) are further expanding their collaboration in the field of biomedical research and translational medicine. Building on the existing LuxGen platform, which was launched in 2018, LNS and LIH signed a new collaboration agreement to transform the existing sequencing infrastructure into a common research and competence genome center. In July 2021, a joint LNS-LIH team was established to form a single sequencing hub situated at the National Center of Genetics (NCG) at the LNS.
This expansion of the collaboration between LNS and LIH represents a significant step forward for translational research in Luxembourg and for the LuxGen sequencing platform. LuxGen was established to share expertise, leverage large-scale investments, make efficient use of equipment, promote joint translational research, and hence pave the way towards a national sequencing consortium. Today, LuxGen is the first sequencing center in Luxembourg and provides access to a variety of next-generation sequencing (NGS) based assays with a focus on translational and clinical research projects.
A focus on personalised oncology and rare diseases
LuxGen is under the governance of a joint LIH-LNS steering committee. At the head of the multidisciplinary team is Prof. Dr Barbara Klink, who also directs the NCG. She sees personalised oncology and research in the field of rare diseases as core to the new LNS-LIH initiative: “With high-throughput sequencing technologies we now have the tools to better diagnose disease, better predict its course, and better select treatments. The availability of genome sequencing at the intersection of biomedical research and clinical care unlocks the potential for precision medicine, in particular for patients with cancer and those with rare hereditary diseases.”
To achieve this goal, apart from pooling expertise, LuxGen has drastically expanded its sequencing capacity. The Illumina NovaSeq6000 production scale sequencer, the first such instrument installed in the country, was put into operation at the LNS at the end of 2020. This represented a critical step forward for patient care and biomedical research in Luxembourg, as Barbara Klink explains: “Using the NovaSeq6000, we are now able to sequence several thousands of genes or even a complete human genome for the first time ever in Luxembourg, at comparatively low costs and in a short time. Before that, the technology needed for this was simply not available in the country. We were therefore dependent on foreign partners, especially for larger sequencing approaches. This has now changed and we are excited about the prospects for patient care.”
Coordinating the operations of LuxGen is Dr Daniel Stieber, who considers the further consolidation of sequencing activities in one joint LNS-LIH core facility an important asset to drive large scale translational research projects in the country: “LuxGen is now able to offer a variety of important NGS based methods and advanced expertise for project design and data analysis that will strengthen this aspect.”
An initiative of high strategic importance with a direct benefit for patients
Expertise in advanced molecular biology, sequencing as well as in core bioinformatics data analysis is provided to the LuxGen center by engineering, technical and bioinformatics staff from the LIH. According to Prof. Dr Simone Niclou, Director of the LIH’s Department of Oncology, the initiative is of high strategic importance for the LIH, the mission of which is to perform translational biomedical research with a direct benefit for patients:
“The LIH is particularly active in the fields of cancer research and immune-related and neurological disorders. Building on the LIH-LNS partnership that has been developed over the last years in the area of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), and based on the need for large scale genomic profiling in precision medicine, the LIH and the LNS wished to jointly expand the scope from a “pure” sequencing platform to a collaborative sequencing hub (sequencing centre) in which access to instruments, laboratory, personnel and expertise are shared. This led to the new LuxGen Sequencing Hub, implemented as a bilateral LNS-LIH partnership.”
Consistently bundling together expertise and technological infrastructure
Prof. Dr Friedrich Mühlschlegel, Director of the LNS, sees this next stage of the LuxGen project as a logical consequence and further development of the National Center of Genetics at the LNS : “Particularly in the field of medicine, Luxembourg relies on very close cooperation between the various players and their international teams. With the LuxGen project, we continue to consistently implement this approach and bundle clinical expertise, research capacity and equipment. LuxGen, which hopes to attract more partners in the future, is an important step on the road towards a national program in genome medicine in Luxembourg.”
Link to the Next Generation Sequencing video: https://youtu.be/Cd21t3mGR9o