Centre for Functional Genomics

The Centre of Excellence in Functional Genomics was established on 1st October 2003, in the University of Ulster at Coleraine, with £2m funding from the European Union (EU) Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, under Technology Support for the Knowledge-Based Economy.

Project Aims and Objectives

The project aims to augment the existing world-class biotechnology and biomedical facilities at Coleraine by creating a specialist Centre of Excellence in Functional Genomics (CFG), which concentrates on research projects that may, in the short or long-term, have commercial impact on biotechnology, biomedicine or high-added-value food production. This is being carried out using the modern techniques of functional genomics – the molecular analysis of how gene products work, as opposed to structural genomics – the discovery of what genes exist. The CFG is intended to give rise to spin-off companies from the University, which will take advantage of novel ideas and technologies and also attract inward investment into Northern Ireland: immediately and directly into the adjacent University of Ulster Science Park; more indirectly, by stimulating the environment in which high-technology, high information content, high added value components can be incorporated into existing commercial enterprises.

Management of the Centre for Functional Genomics Project

The CFG Project is managed by a Principal Investigator (Profesor Stephen Downes) who is assisted by a management board comprising the leaders of Research Groups involved in the project, meeting at monthly intervals to discuss strategy for the CFG and the CMB building in which it is embedded.

Equipment Purchased to Assist CFG Research Projects A portion of the CFG grant has been used to purchase equipment such as a microarray reader, real-time PCR machine, two mass spectrometers, protein purification workstation and PALM laser microdissection system, all of which are installed and functioning. Five cell culture laboratories are now up and running.

Research Areas

Stem cell differentiation to islet cell phenotypes for diabetes using stable and novel peptides targeting islet cells (Professor Peter Flatt, Professor Finbarr O’Harte)
Transfection of milk-borne maternal gene transcripts to the mammalian neonate (Professor Tony Bjourson)
Validation of probiotic or prebiotic enhancers of functional foods
Exploitation of the genomic diversity of extremophilic micro-organisms (Professor Geoff McMullan)
Optimisation of next generation antibiotics (Professor James Dooley)
Exploitation of amphibian and other peptides with biological activity (Professor Peter Flatt)
Creation of transgenic mice for analytical purposes (Professor Stephen Downes)