Three research groups at NMBU last week submitted a unified proposal to the Research Council of Norway (RCN) to establish the world’s leading Centre for Salmon Genome Biology – SalmoGENE. The Centre seeks to generate fundamental data that will help us to understand connections between genomic variation and complex trait variation reflected in life-history traits, seasonal responses, and salmon interactions with parasites and microbes.
“We want to create a cutting-edge learning environment that will foster a new generation of researchers and transform salmon biology research for the future”, says the proposed center director, Sigbjørn Lien.
Building the right team
One year ago, the RCN announced that they wished to provide 10 years of funding for up to ten Centres of Excellence (CoE). Since then, Lien and colleagues in the Genome Biology research group, have worked hard to build the foundations for a new research centre. Although two decades of salmon genomics research have resulted in exciting breakthroughs, there are still fundamental gaps in our knowledge about how genomes translate into important traits for aquaculture and wild Atlantic salmon. “We believe that the only way to unravel these longstanding ‘genetic mysteries’ is using a broad, interdisciplinary approach”, says co-lead on the CoE application Simen Rød Sandve.
Exploiting the diversity across the NMBU campus, Lien and Sandve have assembled an experienced team of researchers within genomics, bioinformatics, evolutionary biology, physiology and molecular biology, from three Faculties at NMBU: BIOVIT, KBM and VET.
Figure – ConceptuConceptual framework of SalmoGENE. The CoE will in interconnected activities and experiments investigate salmon genomics and genetics within the context of intrinsic genomic architecture, seasonal cues (e.g. temperature and light), interaction with natural parasites, and host-microbiome interplay.
Phase 1 – Phase 2 – and then?
The CoE application process is a two-phase procedure. A sketch application (Phase 1) was first submitted in November 2020, and this summer the NMBU-team was invited to take part in the final round of the CoE funding. The SalmoGENE team could finally meet face-to-face for the first time, to celebrate passing the first hurdle, and start planning the Centre activities in more detail. . Last week, the 20th October, the full CoE application (Phase 2) was finally submitted.
“The whole process has been very positive. We’ve experienced excellent teamwork with important contributions from all team members covering quite diverse research fields, and we have delivered a product that we can be proud of”, Sigbjørn Lien states.
A final decision is expected by June 2022. If successful, a new world leading salmon genome biology centre will officially be operating from October 1st, 2022.
The SalmoGENE core team
Two Centre Leaders, eleven Principal Investigators (PI’s) and a Centre Coordinator have been planning and preparing the SalmoGENE application.