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  • Constructive stakeholder discussions facilitated on South African Bioprospecting Regulations at the University of Pretoria

    Constructive stakeholder discussions facilitated on South African Bioprospecting Regulations at the University of Pretoria
    5th Nov 2019

    Life Science researchers from different background

    Life science researchers from and around Gauteng, gathered at the University of Pretoria for a Bioprospecting Regulations Forum on the 23rd of October 2019. This information sharing day was intended give the life science community an overview of the national legislative provisions on bioprospecting and biodiversity in South Africa and to address the concerns of the researchers on how these relate to their work. For context, “Bioprospecting economy is based on searching for, collecting, harvesting and extracting living or dead indigenous species or derivatives and genetic material thereof for commercial or industrial purposes.”

    Information sharing
    Healthy discussions and debates

    There was a clear need for these discussions between the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) personnel and Life Science researchers on the bioprospecting regulations. The meeting consisted of presentations that provided definitions and clarifications on different aspects of bioprospecting and biodiversity regulations in South Africa. The attendees were guided through key regulatory frameworks for bioprospecting, the Nagoya protocol, permits, compliance and benefits sharing. Healthy discussions and debates occurred throughout and after the presentations. Some of the discussion points were on how long the permit applications take, differences between bioprospecting vs scientific/basic research permits, amendments to the Biodiversity Act, the importance of the Nagoya Protocol and provincial level capacity and limitations.

    The African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT) believes that the forum will improve the communication between the DEFF and the researchers applying for permits and also believes that interests are now more aligned. This event raised significant awareness on national bioprospecting regulations and addressed the concerns of the researchers in attendance. The ACGT is looking forward to working with the DEFF on other future initiatives such as this one. We would like to thank Ms Natalie Feltman and Mrs Lactitia Tshitwamulomoni from the DEFF and the delegates that were in attendance, for their contributions to the success of this event.

    For more info on the event; visit our Facebook page: link or contact Mr Molati Nonyane for further information at

  • National symposium confirms that South Africa is a major player in Cell and Gene Therapy research

    National symposium confirms that South Africa is a major player in Cell and Gene Therapy research
    29th Oct 2019

    Calendar events are a great motivator and serve as a milestone to plan for and to work towards. Researchers from academia and science councils, clinicians, industry representatives and scientific vendors came together for one such networking event- the 5th National Cell and Gene Therapy Meeting, on the 26th and 27th of September 2019 at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria. The purpose of the meeting was for stakeholders active in the field to showcase their research. The two-day event attracted close to 70 delegates from across South Africa.

    The stakeholders presented their efforts to find therapies for different diseases and ailments. The work presented touched on a range of applications and possibilities; from the different uses of multiple cell types and genes to different ways to administer said cells in therapeutic treatments. Lively discussions followed almost every talk that due to the high quality and relevance of the work being presented. Symposium panel discussion sessions focused on relevant issues around cell and gene therapy such as CAR-T cells, genome editing, technology exploitation and possible harms.

    The meeting was also used to launch the special edition of the South African Medical Journal on Cell & Gene Therapy. The attendees were fortunate to receive a free copy of the journal to take home. The issue presented another opportunity and platform to showcase the great work that is being done by the different SA groups and researchers.

    At the end of the two days, Professor Michael Pepper from the University of Pretoria made a strong plea for stakeholders to contribute to ongoing development and drafting of specific policies and legislation governing Cell and Gene Therapy in South Africa. It is critical to have appropriate regulatory frameworks to allow patients to benefit from advances in the field, while at the same time protecting them from exploitation and harm.

    The organizers (Prof Michael Pepper, Dr Janine Scholefield and the ACGT Team) would like to thank Haemotec, Separations Scientific, the Scientific Group, inqaba biotec, Beckman Coulter, Whitehead Scientific and ACGT for the financial support. Without their contribution the travel and accommodation arrangements for some of the delegates would not have been possible. The organizers would also like to extend their sincere gratitude to the speakers and panellists for their participation in the meeting. The speakers represented the Universities of Pretoria, Cape Town, the Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch as well as the South African Medical Research Council, Royal Holloway University of London, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Biolawgic (Pty) Ltd, University College Cork, Ireland and the Albert’s Cellular Therapy centre (ACT). Without their involvement this event would not have been possible. We hope to see the delegates again at the next meeting. The date for the next meeting will be communicated soon. For more images use this link.

  • SA researchers introduced to the field at the National Metabolomics Platform

    14th Aug 2019

    The 2019 Introductory Metabolomics Workshop was held at the National Metabolomics Platform, based at North-West University’s (NWU) Potchefstroom Campus from 05-07th August 2019. This workshop was a collaborative effort between the African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT), NWU and the recently established Metabolomics South Africa (MSA).  The workshop provided a capacity building opportunity to help delegates that are in the earlier stages of the research to build a foundation with sound metabolomics techniques and tools.

    The workshop was facilitated by a panel of local metabolomics experts from several institutions from all over the country. The facilitators from North-West University were Dr Aurelia Williams, Prof Du Toit Loots, Dr Mari van Reenen, Dr Shayne Mason, Dr Zander Lindeque, Mr Emile Jansen van Rensburg and Ms Zinandre Stander. The facilitators from the University of Johannesburg included Dr Fidele Tugizimana and Mr Msizi Mhlongo. University of Pretoria was represented by Prof Duncan Cromarty and the University of Cape Town by Dr Zandile Mlamla.

    The focus on day one of the workshop was on the different metabolomics workflows, experimental design and the application of metabolomics in different disciplines and industries. On the second day of workshop the delegates were given an opportunity to participate in real wet lab experiments using NMR and Mass spectroscopy. On the final day of the workshop, the focus was mostly on data handling and interpretation. This involved normalization, quality assurance, statistics, metabolite identification and metabolomics resources.

    The participants were from multiple research institutions from all over South Africa. There were participants from the Universities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, the Witwatersrand, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, North-West University, University of South Africa, Tshwane University of Technology, University of Cape Town, University of Limpopo and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Below is a few takes offered by the delegates about the workshop:

    “The content of the course was well balanced to suite newbies and experienced researchers in metabolomics. It was a great mix of people at different levels of research and different themes which made it rich.” 

    “The course is very insightful to beginners, gives an idea of how to tackle metabolic profiling as well as how to analyse the data. Personally, the course has answered a lot of questions I had, and it inspired me.”

    “The statistical analysis was extensively covered and will be very useful in considering the best possible statistical tool to use on one’s data.”

    “ I enjoyed learning about the different applications of metabolomics and how various types of research questions can be answered through the platform.” 

    “The area of research is still evolving and there is the need to prepare next generation of researchers for the task ahead to apply it in various fields apart from the human area alone.”

    “I found the workshop well- structured, comprehensive and rich in content.”

     

    The ACGT would also like to wish all the participants of the workshops all the luck with their work and future in metabolomics. Furthermore, the ACGT sends much deserved gratitude to all the members of the organizing committee; Mr Molati Nonyane, Dr Aurelia Williams, Mrs Itseng Malao, Dr John Becker and Dr Fidele Tugizimana for all of their efforts in making this event a success. The ACGT would also like to extend their gratitude to the sponsors of this event: Shimadzu, Microsep, Separations and the Scientific Group. You are welcome to visit our facebook page for more visuals from the event.

     

     

     

     

  • I attended the 2019 International Metabolomics Conference held in The Hague …and I loved it!

    I attended the 2019 International Metabolomics Conference held in The Hague  …and I loved it!
    14th Aug 2019

    My involvement with the field of Metabolomics is in my capacity as Liaison Scientist for the African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT) and as a committee member of Metabolomics South Africa (MSA). The ACGT represents the interests of three universities and two research councils in the Gauteng region (Wits, UJ, UP, CSIR and ARC. I coordinate ACGT’s Metabolomics capacity building activities which include, but are not limited to: meetings, workshops and symposiums; finding synergies between researchers and subsequently building linkages amongst ACGT partner institutions and relevant outside institutions. MSA is a non-profit organization seen as an opportunity to promote and improve the profile of metabolomics research and technology in South Africa, foster networking, training, capacity building, information sharing, mentoring, career opportunities, leadership training and professional development.

    I discovered through one of our colleagues from the University of Edinburgh that a Metabolomics Conference was to be held at the World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands from 23-27 June 2019. Attending relevant information dissemination events like the 2019 International Metabolomics Conference, helps me perform my roles well for the ACGT and its partners and also enables me to keep up with the trends in metabolomics research. A decision was then made that I would be attending the conference. I therefore registered to attend the conference and began with the travel arrangements. The visa came out in the nick of time, they do say better late than never. I managed to conquer the usual worries of travelling: Did I pack enough clothes? Did I forget something? Constant reminder that whatever I do, I better not miss the flight. Thankfully, there were no glitches in my travel and all went well. As a bonus, the city of The Hague in itself is amazing with efficient public transport and some great sites.

    There was a great South African presence at the workshop with delegates from University of Johannesburg, University of South Africa and North-West University. The conference provided an opportunity to listen to international metabolomics researchers from all over the world sharing their findings, an opportunity to network and identify relevant synergies so as to foster further collaboration amongst metabolomics researchers within SA and across the world. The ACGT already has relationships with some key international metabolomics players who have been assisting with capacity building activities over the past several years. This event provided an opportunity for some stakeholder management to continue to strengthen these relationships. This conference was also an opportunity to expand our contact list and open up new opportunities for collaborations and relationships with South Africans researchers.

    My takeaway from this conference is simply that there is a significant and continuing growth of metabolomics all over the world. The discipline has diverse applications in health, agriculture and industry. The ACGT and MSA will do all in its power to assist in pushing African Metabolomics in the right direction and keeping it globally competitive. I would like to encourage anyone who is involved in metabolomics or metabolomics related work to attend future International Metabolomics Conference as this was a worthwhile experience.

    My interests and professional involvements are not only limited to the field of metabolomics, I also continue to be involved in genomics and in life science research in aspects that include capacity building, fundraising and research coordination, nationally and internationally. For queries relating to any of the above fields, feel free to contact me at and we can discuss how I and/or the ACGT can be of assistance.

    Story by: Molati Nonyane

  • Much needed Linux training held at the University of Pretoria for Life Scientists

    Much needed Linux training  held at the University of Pretoria for Life Scientists
    19th Jul 2019

    In the post-genomic era, life scientists are generating more data than ever. To enable researchers to manipulate and analyze their own data, the ACGT, together with the Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB, University of Pretoria) hosted a three-day workshop on the use of the operating system. Linux is open-source software allows researchers to analyze data generated on multiple platforms, in contrast to expensive vendor-specific software that require periodic license renewals.

    The workshop was facilitated in conjunction with the CISCO Networking Academy, and a trainer from this academy, Mr Shaheem Sadien, facilitated the training sessions, with Professor Fourie Joubert providing context and practical examples on structural and next-generation sequencing data. Delegates were representative of all ACGT partner institutions (ARC, CSIR, UJ, UP and Wits), as well as the South African Medical Research Council. The delegates had wide-ranging interests, ranging from precision medicine, food technology, crop protection to animal genetics.

    The Africa Centre for Gene Technologies always looking to contribute to Africa’s capacity building

    All delegates indicated that they would recommend the course to their colleagues, and their suggestions for future courses were noted. The trainers provided the delegates with ample online resources to work from in the future but there is a plan that in future workshops, the trainers will make time to assist each delegate with their own specific data sets. Should delegates complete the requisite online modules, they also receive a certificate of competence from CISCO.

    Brief feedback from some of the delegates, on what they enjoyed most, can be found below:

    “I really enjoyed the application of skills presented on the Thursday. But the rest of the course was definitely necessary to understand that section!” 

    “Doing the exercises in the class where you can ask questions and the lecturers were awesome.”

    Despite the fact that the course was provided in class, explaining concepts and allowing practice, a detailed online course is also provided. This repetition I think works well to allow lasting memorization of the course content – which is basically a language that needs to be remembered.

    Kindly also see the ACGT’s Facebook page for pictures of the event. The ACGT wishes to thank Mr Molati Nonyane, Ms Itseng Malao, Mr Shaheem Sadien and Prof Fourie Joubert for course content and organization. The ACGT is looking to host another iteration of this course in 2020. Kindly contact our Liaison Scientist, Mr Molati Nonyani () in this regard.

  • A beneficial Advanced Metabolomics Workshop is hosted by the ACGT at the University of Pretoria for metabolomics researchers from all over South Africa

    20th Mar 2019

    The African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT), the University of Johannesburg and the University of Pretoria organized the 2019 Advanced Metabolomics Workshop that was held at the University of Pretoria from 13-15th March 2019.  The workshop provided a capacity building platform to address key issues and challenges in the field of metabolomics.

    The workshop was facilitated by this panel of elite metabolomics experts. The facilitators were Dr Reza Salek (International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France), Dr Karl Burgess (University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK), Dr Fabien Jourdan (INRA Toulouse, France), Dr Justine Bertrand-Michel (INSERM Toulouse, France), Dr Naomi Rankin (University Hospital Wishaw, Scotland, UK), Dr Jasper Engel (Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands) and Dr Fidele Tugizmana (University of Johannesburg, RSA).

    Useful tools

    This workshop covered advanced metabolomics topics using a combination of lectures, interactive round table discussions and computer-based practical sessions. The topics covered in the workshop included applications of metabolomics (clinical, plant/agricultural, industrial), LC-MS/MS/NMR metabolite identification, simple and multivariate statistics, data standards and metabolomics resource, network-oriented metabolomics data mapping, advanced data analysis, lipidomics, metabolomics networks and using fragmentation to enhance metabolite IDs. Throughout the three days, the delegates also had a chance to ask project-specific questions and advice from the with facilitators.

    The participants were from the ACGT partner institutions, as well as outside institutions including previously disadvantaged research institutions. There were participants from University of Pret

    Hands on training

    oria, University of Johannesburg, University of the Witwatersrand, Agricultural Research Council, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, North-West University, University of South Africa, Tshwane University of Technology, University of the Free State, Walter Sisulu University, University of Cape Town and the University of Venda. Delegates exhibited different scientific backgrounds and had the chance to get to know each other through two-minute elevator-type flash presentations on the first day of each workshop.

    Some fun was had too!

    The ACGT would also like to wish all the participants of the workshops all the luck with their work and future in metabolomics. Furthermore, the ACGT sends much deserved gratitude to all the members of the organizing committee; Mr Molati Nonyane, Mrs Itseng Malao, Dr John Becker, Dr Fidele Tugizimana, and the European visitors for all of their efforts in making this event a success. The ACGT would also like to extend their gratitude to the sponsors of this event in Thermo Fisher Scientific and the Embassy of France in South Africa.

    If you would like to view most of the pictures from this event, please visit our facebook page:

    https://www.facebook.com/ACGT.biotec/

    The delegates and facilitators

    For any metabolomics-related capacity building and networking queries, kindly contact Mr Molati Nonyane, ACGT Liaison Scientist (, 0124206139).

  • Metabolomics South Africa (MSA) is officially launched during a Metabolomics Symposium in Pretoria

    Metabolomics South Africa (MSA) is officially launched during a Metabolomics Symposium in Pretoria
    20th Mar 2019

    The 2019 Metabolomics symposium was held at the Innovation Hub from 11-12th March 2019. This symposium was aimed at principal investigators, postgraduate and PhD students currently performing or planning to work in the metabolomics field. This event was an opportunity for both local and international metabolomics researchers to share their findings, to network and identify synergies so as to foster further collaboration amongst metabolomics researchers within SA and across Europe. This symposium was mainly a platform to officially launch Metabolomics South Africa (MSA). MSA is a non-profit organization seen as an opportunity to promote and improve the profile of metabolomics research and technology in South Africa, foster networking, training, capacity building, information sharing, mentoring, career opportunities, leadership training and professional development. The symposium was a first official event hosted by MSA with the assistance of its partner, the ACGT.

    The first day of the symposium was themed “Metabolomics, where are we?”. Topics discussed throughout the day included the overview of metabolomics in South Africa, good metabolomics data, role of metabolomics in health sciences, lipidomics and plant metabolomics. The discussions on the second day of the symposium were under the theme “Metabolomics, informatics, statistics and applications” and covered topics such as metabolomics networks, statistical models, NMR metabolomics and lipidomic profiling.  At the end of each day, attempts were made to finish off with round table discussions to address burning issues or questions on the day’s talks as well as other issues regarding to metabolomics or MSA.

     

    It is worth mentioning several key speakers that participated and contributed to the symposium. The speakers mentioned below are all key contributors to the field of Metabolomics and we are thankful that they shared their work and experiences. These were the presenters at the event in no specific order:

    • Dr Reza Salek is currently with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France. Dr Salek has extensive experience in metabolomics research in academia, industry and research institutes with extensive metabolomics knowledge, both analytical and data handling. Dr Salek has worked in clinical trial settings and is interested in setting up workflow infrastructures for metabolomics data handling and analysis using cloud computing.
    • Dr Karl Burgess is from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Most of Dr Burgess’s workfocuses on the use of mass spectrometry in biomedical research, particularly in the understanding of infectious disease. This multidisciplinary research area builds on his fruitful collaborations with cell biologists, engineers, bioinformaticians, instrumentation developers and clinicians.
    • Dr Fabien Jourdan is a research scientist at the French National Research Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). Dr Jourdan develops computational methods to study human genome-scale metabolic network aimed at retrieving parts of the metabolism affected by genetic or environmental perturbations. These methods are mainly applied to toxicology and human health.
    • Dr Naomi Rankin is from the University Hospital Wishaw, Scotland, UK. Dr Rankin’s research interests focus on the use of NMR for metabolite profiling and advanced lipoprotein profiling of serum and plasma samples. She is particularly interested in the use of these methods in epidemiology/clinical trials, especially with a view towards translation of NMR molecular profiling approaches into the clinic.
    • Dr Jasper Engel is a researcher at Biometris at Wageningen University & Research. Dr Engel’s primary research interests are in applied statistics. He is interested in the development and careful evaluation of statistical approaches for processing and analysis of complex high-dimensional data sets, and their application in high-dimensional chemical, biological or medical problems. Over the last several years his research has mainly focused on method development for analysis of metabolomics experiments.
    • Dr Justine Bertrand-Michel is the co-director of the MetaToul Lipidomic facility at INSERM in Toulouse, France. Dr Bertrand-Michel is a lipidomics expert and she was invited to this symposium because of her work in lipidomics a field that most people in metabolomics have shown a keen interest in.
    • Dr Fidele Tugizimana is the chairman of MSA, a research scientist at the University of Johannesburg, a specialist scientist in the international R&D management of the Omnia (Pty) Ltd company (SA) and a scientific consultant in the L.E.A.F. Pharmaceuticals LLC (USA & Rwanda). Dr Tugizimana applies metabolomics approaches in plant-environment interactions (involving abiotic/biotic stresses, beneficial microorganisms, etc.).
    • Prof Du Toit Loots is the secretary of MSA and a key member of the national metabolomics platform based at the North-West University in Potchefstroom. Prof Loots has made a substantial contribution to the advancement of metabolomics, by means of developing much of the published methodology and applications in terms of identifying new markers for better disease characterization, diagnostics and treatment since 2002.
    • Dr Aurelia A. Williams is the deputy secretary of MSA and a senior lecturer at the biochemistry department of the North-West University. Her research interests include characterizing the impact of molecular traits, metabolism and the immune response on disease pathogenesis. She believes metabolomics will serve as a tool in better characterizing infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, HIV-associated comorbidities, virus-host interactions, treatment response mechanisms and pathogenesis-associated phenotypes.
    • Dr Zandile C. Mlamla is a committee member of MSA and a post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), University of Cape Town (UCT). Her research is currently aimed towards the validation of urinary biomarkers of Tuberculosis Disease. She continues to gain experience and expertise in the cutting-edge field of MS-based lipidomics.

    The future of South African metabolomics will be in great hands if the student sessions over the two days are anything to go by. On day one, the student presenters were Mr Efficient Ncube from the University of Johannesburg, Mr Emile Jansen van Rensburg and Ms Monique Combrink both from the North-West University. The student session on day two was by three students from the North-West University in Ms Karin Terburgh, Mrs Zinandre´ Stander and Christiaan van Zyl. The students presented their ongoing work and they received great contributions from the people that attended the symposium in the form of question and suggestions.

    Well over 140 delegates from over 25 institutions attended this symposium. They consisted of principal investigators, post-doctorates, researchers, post graduate students and several industry players. The hope is that most of them will register as member of MSA and take an active role in the growth of MSA and metabolomics in general.  The ACGT and MSA would like to thank all the delegates who registered to attend this event as well as all the members of the organizing committee; Mr Molati Nonyane, Mrs Itseng Malao, Dr John Becker, Dr Fidele Tugizimana, MSA Committee and the European visitors for all of their efforts in putting together this event. The ACGT and MSA would also like to extend their gratitude to the sponsors of this event in Shimadzu, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Microsep/Waters and the Embassy of France in South Africa. Please look out for more MSA and/or ACGT events similar to this symposium in the future.

    If you would like to view more of the pictures from this event, please visit our facebook page:

    https://www.facebook.com/ACGT.biotec/

  • The ACGT hosts a successful whole transcriptome sequencing data analysis workshop

    The ACGT hosts a successful whole transcriptome sequencing data analysis workshop
    26th Feb 2019

    The Africa Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT), in conjunction with the University of Zurich, University of Pretoria and the Agricultural Research Council, hosted a successful whole transcriptome sequencing (RNA sequencing or RNASeq) data analysis workshop for researchers from the 1st to the 8th of February 2019. The workshop was held at the Hatfield campus of the University of Pretoria.

    RNA sequencing aims to unravel the sum of all transcripts in an organism at any given moment in time and can give important clues to changes occurring in an organism following a variety of environmental cues or life stage transitions. The workshop started with two days of introductory courses in Linux and R. The introductory courses were facilitated by Professor Fourie Joubert from the University of Pretoria and Dr Rian Pierneef from the Agricultural Research Council. These courses offered the delegates basic command line skills needed to manipulate RNA sequencing data.

    Prof. Mark Robison sharing valuable knowledge and skills with the delegates

    The two days of introductory courses were followed by a four-day interactive and hands-on RNA Sequencing workshop. The workshop was facilitated by renowned experts and academics from the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences at the University of Zurich in Switzerland: Professor Mark Robinson and Dr Simone Tiberi. Professor Mark Robinson is involved in research that applies statistical methods and data science to experimental data with biological applications within the context of genomics data types. Dr Simone Tiberi is a post-doctoral research fellow who is working on the development of cutting-edge statistical methods in bioinformatics, mostly for bulk and single-cell RNASeq data.

     

    Dr Simone Tiberi assisting the delegates in of of the hands-on sessions

    The workshop covered theoretical aspects of RNA sequencing such as new technologies, applications, experimental design, batch effects, dimension reduction, clustering, quality control, limma, normalization quantification and differential expression, among other things. There were also one-on-one sessions with delegates to address their specific queries or to clarify any issues that may have arisen. The delegates hailed mostly from the ACGT partner institutions; University of Pretoria, University of Johannesburg, University of the Witwatersrand and the Agricultural Research Council. The feedback from the delegates was very positive in how the course was designed, organized and conducted. The ACGT is hopeful that the course will be beneficial to all the researchers that came to the workshop and to those that work close with them.

    The ACGT and all of its partners would like to extend enormous gratitude to Professor Mark Robinson, Dr Simone Tiberi, Dr Rian Pierneef and Professor Fourie Joubert for sharing their time and expertise with the attendees. The ACGT would also like to thank Professor Fourie Joubert and Mrs Itseng Malao for all of their assistance in organizing this event. The Centre wishes all the participants the best of luck with applying their newly learned skill to their work.

    Who said learning isn’t fun?

     To view some additional pictures from the event please visit our facebook page.

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2516672451738564&type=1&l=b3ae88d048

  • Whole Transcriptome Sequencing Data Analysis workshop 01 – 08th February 2019 University of Pretoria

    21st Jan 2019

    RNA Seq aims to unravel the sum of all transcripts in an organism at any given moment in time and can give important clues to changes occurring in an organism following a variety of environmental cues or life stage transitions. The ACGT, in conjunction with the Universities of Zurich, Pretoria and the Agricultural Research Council, will host a whole transcriptome sequencing (RNA sequencing or RNA Seq) data analysis workshop for researchers in Pretoria during the first week of February 2019. In preparation for the workshop, there will also be introductory sessions to Linux and R for those accepted to attend the workshop.

    Important dates:

    ·      01 February 2019 (Friday) – Introduction to Linux
    ·      04 February 2019 (Monday) – Introduction to R
    ·      05-08 February 2019 (Tuesday to Friday) – RNA Seq WorkshopTopics:

    ·      Theoretical aspects (technologies and applications, experimental design, batch effects, dimension reduction, clustering, QC, limma, normalization)
    ·      Environment setup (Organizing files, running QC on datasets)
    ·      Quantification
    ·      Differential expression
    ·      Advanced topics (Geneset testing, single cell pre-processing, workflow)
    ·      One-on-one sessions with delegates to address their specific queries or to clarify any issues that may have arisen.

    The Facilitators:

    The workshop will include a mix of lectures and hands-on practical sessions facilitated by renowned and expert academics. The facilitators will include:
    ·      Professor Mark Robinson: Professor of Statistical Genomics at the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences at the University of Zurich in Switzerland – Research interests are in the application of statistical methods and data science to experimental data with biological applications within the context of genomics data types.
    ·      Doctor Simone Tiberi: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, also from the University of Zurich, who works on on the development of cutting-edge statistical methods in bioinformatics, mostly for bulk and single-cell RNA-seq data.
    ·      Professor Fourie Joubert: Bioinformaticist and Director of the Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Pretoria.
    ·      Doctor Rian Pierneef: Bioinformatics Research Scientist at the Biotechnology Platform of the Agricultural Research Council.Application Process:

    Should you be interested in attending this course, please provide your details and your reasons for attending the course before noon on Wednesday, 23 January 2019.

    Please use this link to apply:

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RNASeqWorkshopACGT

    Kindly be as descriptive as possible in answering questions as selections will be based on the answers you provided. If you know someone else who stands to benefit from this course, kindly forward this email to the relevant party. Please note that incomplete applications will not be considered. We look forward to receiving your applications.

    On behalf of the organising committee

    Molati Nonyane

    Liaison Scientist 

    African Center for Gene Technologies

    Experimental Farm,  South Street

    University of Pretoria

    E-mail: 

    Tel: +27 12 420 6139/ +27 71 887 0438

    www.acgt.co.za

  • Metagenomics researchers receive much needed training in using R for data visualization

    Metagenomics researchers receive much needed training in using R for data visualization
    28th Nov 2018

    The African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT) reached out to numerous metagenomics researchers throughout the country and determined that most of their capacity-building needs were data orientated. A large number of metagenomics stakeholders generate huge amounts of data from samples derived from diverse environments. The stakeholders felt they were not getting maximum value out of vast amount of metagenomics data they have gathered due to limitations in skills to effectively analyse and interpret the data. The ACGT decided to assist in addressing this issue by organizing multiple training initiatives starting with a metagenomics data visualization & data interpretation workshop.

    Delegates during one of the sessions

    The metagenomics data visualization & data interpretation workshop ran from 12-14th November 2018 at the University of Pretoria and was facilitated by a local expert, Dr Rian Pierneef. Dr Pierneef is a bioinformatics research scientist at the Biotechnology Platform of the Agricultural Research Council. Dr Pierneef specializes in biological data analysis and has conducted numerous research studies on prokaryotes in the agricultural environment. The three-day workshop focused on using R for metagenomics data visualization. R is a programming language and free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. The R language is widely used among statisticians and data miners for developing statistical software and data analysis. The workshop started with introducing R to the workshop attendees and then proceeded to direct the attendees through the use of R packages for metagenomics analysis and data visualization.

    Data visualization
    Learning R

    The delegates were from different research backgrounds and hailed mostly from the ACGT partner institutions; University of Pretoria, Agricultural Research Council and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The lectures were kept as relaxed as possible with open discussions and computer-based practical sessions. Through the interactive sessions, the attendees were able to obtain advice and assistance that was specific to their individual projects. There was a general sense from the course evaluations that the course was relevant, practical and beneficial. The ACGT and all of its partners would like to extend enormous gratitude to Dr Rian Pierneef for sharing his time and expertise with the attendees. The ACGT would also like to thank Professor Fourie Joubert and Mrs Itseng Malao for all of their assistance in organizing this event. The ACGT wishes all the participants the best of luck with applying their new earned skill to their work. Due to limited space, not all of the applicants could be hosted but the ACGT encourages those that were not placed this year to keep an eye out for future courses.

    For any other capacity building and networking queries, kindly contact Mr Molati Nonyane, ACGT Liaison Scientist (, 012 420 6139).

    Here is a link to some of the images taken during the event:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2339127189493092&type=1&l=ebfe58f9b5