Márcio the MinION Master

Márcio the MinION Master

**One of our primary missions is to provide training for researches on how to sequence viruses and analyze genetic data. We either bring students to our lab for internships or help set up capabilities in host institutions. This is our first “bootcamp” where Márcio Junio Lima Siconelli, a master student at the University of São Paulo, stayed with us for 8 weeks to learn how to sequence viruses using the MinION and analyze phylogentic data. Here is his experience.

I’m very glad to be part of this team, Grubaugh’s Lab, during this summer! It was an amazing experience!

The Yale Partnerships for Global Health program allows and give support to people of all over the world to do internships to start new partnerships and knowledge exchange. There is an amazing opportunity to find people that have the same interests, work with arbovirus, in my case, and Public Health. When the selection started, I began to look for possible researchers who worked in this area and within the area of molecular biology. During the search, I found Dr. Nathan Grubaugh, whose research’s line matched exactly with what we were looking for, expertise in arbovirology, molecular biology, and a focus on public health.

After a selection and some interviews, Dr. Nathan accepted the challenge and accepted me. Cheers! So, we started some talks to try to do something different and that had application in the context of public health and of course, that fit the time we had. In Brazil, a dengue 2 epidemic is going on, with more than one million people probably infected… one of the most important ever recorded. Eureka! Here was our summer internship project. Considering that the last epidemic with the same serotype was in 2009/10, a gap of 10 years, what would be happening or what could be changed? Bringing together classical epidemiology and modern molecular epidemiology through MinION, we came up with the idea of a pilot project with Dengue. So here we got two-goal in one, try to understand a health concern and a knowledge transfer, learning to work on this platform and returning to apply the technique in Brazil. The challenges were many, since we sent RNA on filter paper to Yale, with no guarantees if they would remain viable for sequencing.

Here at Grubaugh labs, along with Dr. Joseph Fauver, new challenges have emerged, from getting a good deal of genetic material for sequencing and in the sequencing, using a metagenomic approach for MinION. Despite this, we were able to overcome and retrieve the sequences of some quality samples, after analyzing them with Dr. Anderson, which fit as expected. Even though our work is not finished, we found that the virus causing the current dengue 2 outbreak was not the same that caused the outbreak in 2009/10. Not bad for just 2 months to learn new and complex approaches from the beginning.

It was an intense summer, with many difficult tasks, especially for me, as it was the first time I came to the USA and had a deeper contact within that area. Although my mentors and the lab staff (Dr. Nathan, Dr. Anderson, Dr. Joseph, Dr. Chantal, and Mary) made things simpler, with patience, willingness to teach and help with my training. I just have to thank. It was a professional and personal experience that I would take with me. In Brazil, I’m sure that I can put into practice what they taught me, of course, with their support and implement some of our projects.

This summer was the first step to construct, together, better science and bring greater understanding of the outbreaks to Public Health. Thank you for all guys… you were awesome! I hope to see you all soon!

Márcio Junio Lima Siconelli | Masters student at University of São Paulo | Veterinary Phisician with background in Zoonotic diseases and Public Health. Intern during the summer by the Yale Partnerships for Global Health program.


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