FHSU enters new era of DNA teaching, research with equipment provided by LI-COR Biosciences

Thanks to the generosity of LI-COR® Biosciences -- a Lincoln, NE, manufacturer of scientific equipment -- the biology faculty at Fort Hays State University now are able to analyze samples of DNA for research and teaching.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, more commonly know as DNA, has revolutionized forensic science in the past couple of decades just as fingerprinting revolutionized crime investigations a century ago. The law-enforcement application of DNA research has captured the public imagination through high-profile trials and television shows, but the study of DNA has many scientific uses.

LI-COR Biosciences has provided a DNA sequencer, which is an analytical instrument that allows a researcher to determine the sequence of nucleotide bases in a segment of DNA.

Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, expressed appreciation to LI-COR Biosciences, its president and CEO Bill Biggs, and its director of engineering David L. Dilley during a demonstration of the DNA sequencer this morning in Albertson Hall on the university campus.

"It will be a valuable teaching tool in that it will allow students access to biotechnology equipment not commonly found at institutions the size of FHSU," President Hammond said. "The instrument will be incorporated into many laboratory courses, with the amount of contact varying from demonstrations in the lower level courses, to actual hands-on experience at the senior and graduate level. The ability to operate the instrument will be a marketable job skill in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry."

Dilley, who represented LI-COR Biosciences at the demonstration, said the innovative partnership between FHSU and his company was designed to encourage undergraduate education in molecular biology.

"This cutting edge genetic research technology is now available to FHSU students as a laboratory training tool," said Dilley, who earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from FHSU in 1983. "LI-COR is a leading manufacturer of instruments for genomic and proteomic research. FHSU is serving as a study site for LI-COR's new 4300 DNA Sequencing System. The university is studying the benefits, challenges and operational issues that result when a curriculum incorporates a DNA sequencer in a college lab. At the completion of the study, LI-COR will donate the $82,500 system to the university."

Dilley added: "The college classroom provides the bridge for training the next generation of scientists. Hands-on experience with instrumentation, combined with theory coursework, is the best way to prepare students for the future."

Dr. Eric Gillock, assistant professor of biological sciences, provided some additional detail. "The nucleotide bases are the letters in which the language of all DNA is written," he said. "It allows a researcher to look at the genetic makeup of any organism in very fine detail. It has many applications in all aspects of biology. At the molecular and cellular level, it allows microbiologists to identify microorganisms based upon DNA sequence. Once a sequence is elucidated, it can be compared to an international database of sequences of known microorganisms, and degrees of relatedness can be determined. On the larger scale, it allows field biologists to track the migration and evolution of animals and plants by examining slight differences in genetic makeup of these organisms."

Gillock also thanked LI-COR Biosciences for working with FHSU on the goal of examining the feasibility of integrating laboratory-based sequencing into the curriculum of biological science departments for small to mid-sized universities.

Dilley said the new DNA sequencer was especially well suited for undergraduate training due to a modular design that includes built-in software and networking capabilities. The instrument can adopt additional capabilities as the needs of a college curriculum grow. Additionally, the system is designed to withstand the rigors of student use.

LI-COR Biosciences developed one of the first automatic DNA sequencers, an instrument that played a role in various aspects of the Human Genome Sequencing project. The company is a leader in the design and manufacture of instrument systems for biotechnology, plant biology and environmental research.

LI-COR pioneered the use of infrared fluorescence labeling and detection systems for proteomics, DNA sequencing, genotyping and AFLP®Ę for genomic research and discovery. LI-COR instruments for photosynthesis, carbon dioxide analysis and light measurement are recognized worldwide for standard-setting innovation in plant science research and environmental monitoring.

Founded in 1971, the privately held company is based in Lincoln, with subsidiaries in Germany and the United Kingdom. LI-COR systems are used in more than 100 countries and are supported by a global network of distributors. Further information can be obtained at www.licor.com. AFLP is a registered trademark of Keygene, NV.

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