Mattia Prosperi wins Illumina Go Mini Scientific Challenge
By Jill Pease
A bright orange Mini Cooper is traveling Florida streets and highways as part of the University of Florida HealthStreet community engagement program, collecting bugs and bug “splats” on the bumper for a study of mosquito-borne viruses.
The UF study, led by Mattia Prosperi, Ph.D., M.Eng., an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine who was hired under UF’s preeminence initiative, won the Illumina Go Mini Scientific Challenge. The company asked researchers to submit proposals for how they would use the company’s new compact DNA sequencer, the MiniSeq, to accelerate their research. Prosperi’s creative proposal, which combines emerging pathogens research with a community engagement program, was peer-reviewed and selected from more than 1,100 applications worldwide. The prize includes a next-generation sequencing MiniSeq machine, materials for three data runs and a new Mini Cooper car, all valued at about $100,000.
“Dr. Prosperi’s study of mosquito-borne pathogens is an excellent example of the creative and impactful scientific studies that are possible with next-generation sequencing,” said Sam Raha, Illumina’s vice president of global marketing. “Our company is committed to unlocking the power of the genome to improve human health and we were pleased that Dr. Prosperi’s research will help achieve that goal by leveraging the MiniSeq system and Illumina technology to track pathogens throughout Florida and help public health officials improve containment programs, while also engaging community members.”
Insect samples collected during the Mini Cooper’s travels are taken to the lab of Volker Mai, Ph.D., M.P.H., an associate professor in the department of epidemiology. His lab is situated in the Emerging Pathogens Institute, where the MiniSeq is housed. Each run of the MiniSeq produces 20 gigabytes of data, which Prosperi and his team, including epidemiology doctoral student Jae Min, will analyze to identify pathogens carried by the insects.
“Our study aims to understand the diversity of pathogens in Florida at the genetic and vector level which can be used to implement infection control at a public health level,” Prosperi said.