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Date [ 2014-05-21, 08:18 ]

A Nobel laureate teams up with University of Malaya researchers.

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress)  Lee Lai Keen  =Sir Richard “Rich” John Roberts is a British biochemist and molecular biologist. He was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Phillip Allen Sharp for the discovery of introns in eukaryotic DNA and the mechanism of gene-splicing. He currently works at New England Biolabs, USA.

This month, in May, he made a visit to Malaysia where Sir Roberts met up with Professor Jamuna Vadivelu, Department of Medical Microbiology, University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), and Dr. Chan Kok Gan, Institute Science Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Malaya to discuss two collaborative high impact research (HIR)-funded projects he is engaged in.

Jamuna and her research team have initiated a collaboration with Sir Roberts on the methylomes and restriction modification (RM) systems in H. pylori and Burkholderia pseudomallei, both of which cause persistent infections in the host and have been found in the gut microbiome (micro-organisms that share our body) of some of their study samples.

This collaboration will enable them to understand the underlying mechanisms of survival, persistence, co-existence and pathogenicity of both these pathogens(Bacteria or virus that cause diseases).

The methylatedbases of bacterial and archaeal genomes(the other side of DNA) serve important functions as part of RM systems, where they protect the host chromosome against the otherwise deleterious action of the partner restriction enzyme(s), which are needed to destroy unwanted incoming transmissible DNA elements such as phages. However, in some cases these methyltransferases also serve regulatory roles that can play a key role in DNA repair as well as be involved in important effects during the initiation of replication, regulation of gene expression, phase variation and pathogenicity.

The role of Sir Roberts and his lab will be to analyse the methylomes and restriction modification systems of published genome sequences of Malaysian H. pylori isolates *bacteria found in the stomach). He has initiated a joint paper with research groups in Germany to be presented at the ASM Meeting 2014.

Lee Woon Ching, a research assistant at the Marshall Centre Labs is currently spending two months in Sir Roberts' labs as part of this collaboration. A recent meeting with Sir Roberts further strengthened this collaboration and various possible future publications were discussed.

In addition Sir Roberts also called on Dr Chan Kok Gan. The doctor’s HIR-funded project involves whole genome sequencing of various organisms with a primary focus on bacteria, using the PacBio RT II next generation sequencer. One of his publications on a bacterium isolated from the French vineyard soil attracted the interest of Sir Roberts. Since then, they have been collaborating on bacterial epigenetics (the study of our environment and diet that can change our genetic code).

Sir Roberts spent some time vesting Dr.Chan’s HIR facilities and holding discussions with his research team (Chong Teik Min, Hong Kar Wai and Lim Yan Lue) on their collaborative project (see photo). This collaboration is expected to be mutually beneficial and rewarding.


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