The Cambridge Systems Biology Centre was established in November 2006 by Steve Russell, Kathryn Lilley and Gos Micklem via a University funded £10M refurbishment of the former Gurdon Institute to accommodate the CSBC and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research. Prior to this, the experimental infrastructure for the CSBC was built via considerable investment by the BBSRC in functional genomics and proteomics technologies for the UK Arabidopsis and Drosophila research communities, primarily through the Investigating Gene Function Initiative. Grants of approximately £7M to the Departments of Genetics and Biochemistry helped establish the FlyChip microarray facility and the Cambridge Centre for Proteomics. Alongside the experimental resources, computational infrastructure has developed, primarily via Wellcome Trust funding for the InterMine database group. The new consolidated research space allowed recruitment of new principal investigators, Karen Lipkow and Boris Adryan via Royal Society Fellowships, to extend the mathematical and computational expertise of the Centre. With the arrival of Steve Oliver in November 2007, further PI appointments (Nianshu Zhang and Balazs Papp) have extended the core expertise of the centre. The CSBC was established with two main objectives: first to drive the integration of the large-scale experimental technologies that facilitate systems research and second, to provide access to these technologies for the wider Cambridge research communities. Both of these objectives remain firmly in place and many research groups in Cambridge take advantage of the resources within the CSBC for the generation and analysis of genomics and proteomics data. Frequently these collaborations develop into joint projects with investigators becoming associate members of the centre.
Currently the CSBC houses microarray-based genomic technologies, extensive mass spectrometry resources and computer clusters for data analysis and warehousing. The FlyChip microarray core has spotting and liquid handling robots for preparing custom microarrays as well as our standard fly expression arrays. Hybridization stations and scanners allow the use of any spotted microarray platform, including the latest very high-density arrays from Agilent and Nimblegen, for expression analysis or whole genome ChIP-array. We also have a full Affymetrix set-up allowing access to all of these arrays and technologies. We are very much focused on training rather than providing a service, consequently most of our collaborations involve researchers spending time in the Centre to generate and analyze genomics data. The Proteomics Centre houses a range of mass spectrometry equipment, including an LTQ-Orbitrap, Q-Tof premier, Q-Star and LTQ, along with a range of HPLC instrumentation. The Centre was a pioneer of the Difference Gel Electrophoresis (DIGE) technique and has extensive expertise in various types of gel-based proteomics. As with the genomics core, there is a considerable collaborative element to the work in the centre but researchers can also take advantage of a range of proteomics services, ranging from simple identification through to complex analysis of post-translational modifications. The Centre has developed and hosts large-scale ‘omics databases including the Drosophila FlyMine warehouse and the FlyTF transcription factor database. Underpinning FlyMine, the InterMine data warehouse system is becoming increasingly popular as a repository for diverse systems-level data. The CSBC hosts several InterMine installations and is happy to collaborate with any group wishing to establish a data warehouse.