Universiteit Leiden

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Seventeen million for Dutch X-omics Initiative

The Dutch X-omics Initiative has received seventeen million euros from NWO as part of the National Roadmap for Large-Scale Infrastructure. Leiden University’s metabolomics research led by Thomas Hankemeier is one of the participators.

The X-omics Initiative is one of ten projects awarded by Minister Van Engelshoven of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. A total of 138 million euros was allocated to facilitate the large-scale scientific infrastructure in the Netherlands.

X-omics (pronounced: cross-omics) bundles the research into DNA (genomics), proteins (proteomics), products of the metabolism (metabolomics) and the analysis of the large amount of data that is available (bioinformatics). These research areas have experienced enormous growth in recent years. With the awarding of the X-omics Initiative the Dutch research structure in genomics (Edwin Cuppen, UMC Utrecht), proteomics (Albert Heck, Utrecht University), metabolomics (Thomas Hankemeier, Leiden University) and data integration (Alain van Gool, Radboudumc) will now receive an extra quality impulse. The X-omics Intiative is led by the Radboudumc.

Cells in action

Coordinator Alain van Gool: ‘We will be able to greatly increase the technological possibilities of all these -omics techniques. In addition, the higher level of data integration makes it possible to get a good picture of the dynamics between different -omics levels. Often, the genomics, proteomics and metabolomics analysis are separate approaches, that hardly touch each other. The X-omics Initiative now enables us to integrate all available data at all levels and to use them for complex, dynamic analysis of the way cells and tissues function as a system. Based on our new knowledge of these molecular building blocks of life, we will begin to see the contours of cells and tissues in action.’

Metabolomics

Thomas Hankemeier: ‘Within the metabolomics, we aim to measure smaller samples, so that we can for example analyse individual tumor cells. We also want to increase the throughput of our techniques in order to be able to measure more samples, and to measure them more quickly and cheaply. In that way we can better measure the dynamics of the metabolism or large-scale biobanks.’ It is fantastic to be able to study the dynamic interactions between metabolites, proteins and genes much better in the future, Hankemeier says. 'The ultimate goal is of course to make these techniques available in the clinic or by the population, to monitor health and disease.'

Demonstration projects

The bundling and improvement of the -omics techniques will contribute to more knowledge about diseases and health, for example about cancer, immune reactions, unique rare diseases and the effects of genetic variations in the Dutch population. To illustrate the power of the -omics techniques in those areas, demonstration projects at various levels will take place. In cells and organoids, Hans Clevers (Hubrecht Institute) and René Bernards (NKI) study cancer drugs and the emergence of drug resistance. In individual patients, Mihai Netea and Han Brunner (both Radboudumc) study individual differences in rare diseases and at population level, Cornelia van Duijn (Erasmus MC) and Cisca Wijmenga (RUG) analyse the genetic variations in the Dutch population.

National X-omics Infrastructure

The X-omics Initiative is a national initiative. Van Gool: ‘This initiative is also important because it strengthens the collaboration between the top institutes that are active on all these -omics components and data integration. Only by working together are we able to take a huge step forward. We will have to make that effort together, so that we can take the lead in this area globally.'