UK and SA experts build CenGen’s first bioinformatics computer

Ending off the year with a BLAST, CenGen just took the next step to integrate bioinformatics into their workflow through the installation of their first dedicated Bioinformatics server. This was achieved with the assistance of the consulting firm of Dr Tjelvar Olsson and Mr Jan Marais (iMotion).

Upon recognising the dire need for South African (SA) scientists involved in cereal genomics to gain expertise in the field of bioinformatics, Drs Renée Prins (CenGen & Stellenbosch University, SA) and Diane Saunders (John Innes Centre (JIC), UK) set out to actively pursue opportunities to link SA scientists with UK experts in the field.

After an initial Newton Fund Researchers Link Workshop (Bioinformatics and Wheat Genomics) in 2017, followed-up by an in-depth learning opportunity supported by the UK Science and Innovation Network, South Africa (UK SIN) early in 2019, SA crop scientists started to explore bioinformatics in earnest under the excellent guidance of Dr Diane Saunders, Dr Burkhard Steuernagel (JIC, UK) and Dr Rob Davey (Earlham institute, UK).

With their newfound knowledge from the training opportunities, and with continued support from the workshop trainers by means of an online forum, the CenGen Team quickly realised that if they seriously want to migrate to a command line environment, they need to acquire a dedicated bioinformatics server. The UK trainers introduced CenGen to Dr Tjelvar Olsson, Senior Scientific Data and Infrastructure Manager at JIC, who provided guidance to CenGen’s local IT support manager, Mr Jan Marais of iMotion, to assemble this machine.

Dr Tjelvar Olsson

It truly was a privilege to have access to Tjelvar’s expertise. By asking the right questions to establish our needs, having excellent communication skills in discussing hardware with Jan, and maintaining short response times, Tjelvar ensured a quick entry into this new era at CenGen – all done in less than four hours of consultation! This once again illustrates how global connections are making the world a smaller place.