Sigbjørn Lien is the director of CIGENE and an expert on genomics. He founded CIGENE in the early 2000s together with former director Stig Omholt. Since then, CIGENE has grown from a small molecular biology lab to an internationally important genomics research lab as well as Norway’s foremost SNP genotyping facility. Sigbjørn’s genomics research is devoted to understanding mechanisms and genetic architecture underlying phenotypes. His current focus on salmonid fishes as a study system to advance understanding of genome evolution and adaptation.
Sigbjørn’s lab and its extensive collaborative network have pioneered the development of high-throughput genotyping tools for several agriculture and aquaculture species. He has held important roles in high-profile genome sequencing projects:
- Headed the sequencing of the Atlantic salmon genome (Nature 2016)
- National coordinator in the Bovine Genome Consortia (Science 2009 a b)
- Active role in the Cod Genome Sequencing Project (Nature 2011)
- Active role in the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (Science 2014)
Cigene’s work on Atlantic salmon has flourished, and Sigbjørn now leads or co-leads five large projects on salmon genomics and systems biology, totalling > 100 MNOK. Most recently, he initiated an international collaboration to annotate functional elements in salmonid genomes, linked to the Functional Annotation of Animal Genomes consortium.
Sigbjørn’s vision is to advance understanding of genome evolution and adaptation by using salmonids as a model system. These fishes have undergone divergent scenarios of adaptive evolution after their whole-genome duplication event (WGD) 80 million years ago, which is far more recent than the previous WGDs shared by all vertebrates. Combining molecular and systems biology approaches will shed light on both ultimate and proximate causes of evolution, also engendering sustainable salmonid aquaculture and better management of wild populations.