ABOUT THE CENTER

Housed at the University of Texas at Arlington, in the center of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, the North Texas Genome Center utilizes a core of five Illumina NovaSeq-6000 cutting edge genome sequencing instruments which will facilitate a projected sequencing capacity equivalent to 25,000 human genomes per year.

The center is opening to customers in the Spring of 2018, and will eventually transition to UTA’s new 220,000-square-foot Science & Engineering Innovation & Research (SEIR) Building, a world-class research and teaching facility scheduled to open later in 2018.

The center also includes technical and administrative staff, along with multiple instruments that automate the processing of biological samples to facilitate very high throughput capacity at excellent economy and scale.

Together with in house and system-based computational infrastructure, the center is directly linked via high capacity fiber to internet service, which rapidly and efficiently delivers data in real time to customers in a cloud-based computing environment (Illumina BaseSpace), where they may readily download and further analyze their data.

MEET THE CENTER STAFF

Dr. Jon Weidanz, Director

Dr. Jon Weidanz, NTGC Founding Director, is an internationally recognized leader in cancer immunotherapy through his pioneering work to attack and destroy cancer cells by targeting Major Histocompatibility Complexes (MHC) presenting tumor specific peptides. To this end, Weidanz invented and produced novel protein constructs called single-chain T cell receptors and T cell receptor mimicking antibodies. He has 19 patents and 20 additional pending patents, including 5 patents out-licensed for commercial use. He has founded or co-founded four start-up ventures. Dr. Weidanz has collectively more than 80 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and published conference proceedings. He was awarded the title of “Distinguished University Professor” from Texas Tech University Health Science Center (TTUHSC) as well as was recognized as an outstanding teacher by being awarded the President’s Excellence in Teaching award and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teacher award. He has received more than $45M in grants, contracts and investment support. Weidanz founded and was Chair of the Department of Immunotherapeutics and Biotechnology at TTUHSC with the mission to build discovery and translational research programs in immunology and immunotherapy. He also established The Center for Immunotherapeutic Research; a university designated Center of Research Excellence. Dr. Weidanz joined The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) in January of 2016 as the Associate Vice President for Research, and Professor of Biology. He came to UTA to provide leadership and guidance to develop and expand research across campus in life and health science and to guide new investments in facilities on campus. He was the recipient of STARs funding by the UT System. He most recently founded and was named Director of the North Texas Genome Center.

Mr. Kelly Sheff, Center Manager

As technical manager of the NTGC, Mr. Kelly Sheff brings with him 15 years of molecular biology and genomics bench science and laboratory management experience. Kelly’s career initially focused on molecular microbiology, using PCR, gel electrophoresis and capillary sequencing to test human and rodent blood samples and field collected ectoparasites for Bartonella species and Yersinia pestis. Mr. Sheff then shifted to working in cancer and rare heritable disease genomics, using whole genome sequencing (WGS) to advance basic research as well as drive precision medicine initiatives. Kelly also gained significant experience working in CLIA-regulated, CAP-accredited labs touching all points of the process, from testing and results interpretation and reporting to reagent inventory and quality assurance and quality control. He also prepared DNA sequencing libraries and operated Illumina sequencers, and performed all quality control steps for these processes. His broad experience also includes HIPAA compliance, sample accessioning, sequencing test proficiency, and data integrity and security. Mr. Sheff utilized his regulatory background to establish a molecular diagnostic lab, where he authored all technical SOPs for molecular testing and implemented a Quality Management System for the lab. Mr. Sheff also has significant industry experience, managing all daily operations of an ultra-high throughput genotyping lab. In this production-level environment, Kelly was responsible for providing genotyping data to customers on a daily basis. Year-over-year, upwards of 8 million data points annually were produced; Mr. Sheff also was responsible for the business enterprise adopting high-throughput sequencing methods to increase total annual data point production to nearly 20 million data points.

Dr. Todd Castoe, Associate Director

Dr. Todd Castoe, Associate Director, is an expert in functional genomics, population genetics, and bioinformatics. With over 80 publications in genomics and bioinformatics, he has broad experience developing novel genomic library preparation techniques and developing innovative bioinformatic approaches and software for analysis of human and non-traditional model species genomic data. Dr. Castoe’s main research foci include i) application of functional genomics approaches to study organ regenerative growth in vertebrates, ii) studying the relationships between genome structure, function and evolution in vertebrates, and iii) using population genomics data to link genotypes with phenotypes to study genome biology as well as the molecular basis of medically-relevant phenotypes. Castoe previously spent four years as the Co-director of Computational Genomics and the Associate Director of the Consortium for Comparative Genomics and Genome Sequencing Core Facility at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and has experience running and managing both the molecular and bioinformatics components of a medically-oriented genomics facility. He also has broad experience working with research and clinical PIs to effectively design and seek funding for a broad spectrum of medical genomics research projects.

Dr. Zibiao Guo, Senior Research Scientist 

As Senior Research Engineering Scientist, Dr. Zibiao Guo has more than 20 years of experience genotyping and using various sequencing-based approaches, including next-generation sequencing. He was previously a Research Assistant Professor at the Feinstone Center for Genomic Research at the University of Memphis. There, Dr. Guo provided next generation sequencing technical support to the entire University community, as well as external customers. He also played a large role in project consultation and experimental design for NGS projects. Dr. Guo also has broad experience in NGS data analysis. Previous to the University of Memphis, Dr. Guo worked as a senior core research scientist for the genomics and genotyping core facility at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he ran and managed technicians running Affymetrix, Agilent and Illumina next generation platforms. Another major strength of Dr. Guo is his breadth of NGS experience across a diversity of approaches, including RNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq, amplicon sequencing and 16S metagenomics sequencing.

Ms. Nicole Hales, Research Assistant

Nicole Hales has expertise in many molecular techniques including RADseq, RNAseq and epigenetic methods for preparing sequencing libraries. She has over five years of molecular biology and genomics bench work experience including next-generation sequencing library preparation, quality control and development of novel molecular techniques. In addition to substantial laboratory proficiency, Nicole has three years of experience processing and analyzing genomic data using a range of bioinformatics and computational biology tools. She has leveraged these skills for analysis of multiple non-model organisms including an exciting study of the genomics underlying transgenerational plasticity in Daphnia which was published in Molecular Ecology. Nicole received her Bachelors in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry at UTA and currently is a PhD candidate in the Biology Department.