Professor Chris Quince joins Norwich research institutes

21st September 2020

Norwich research institutes are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Chris Quince as their newest Group Leader.

Currently based at Warwick Medical School, Professor Quince will establish a group focusing on high-resolution microbiomics at the Earlham Institute, in a joint role with Quadram Institute Bioscience (QIB).

Professor Quince has pioneered techniques to reduce sequencing noise and the application of methods such as shotgun metagenomics to microbial communities. This cutting-edge approach fragments and sequences all of the genomes in a microbiome – quite literally taking a shotgun approach – and these are then reconstructed using sophisticated computational approaches. The methods to reconstruct sequence fragments back into metagenome assembled genomes (MAGs) have been significantly advanced by Quince.

He has used these metagenome techniques and analysis methods, in conjunction with his wide network of collaborators, to address urgent clinical questions, such as trialling new treatments for paediatric Crohn’s disease and understanding what drives antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the gut microbiome.

“I’m really excited about the move to Norwich Research Park,” said Professor Quince. “I think we have reached a key moment in the UK where we finally appreciate the clinical and commercial importance of the microbiome.

“The combination of data analysis and sequencing excellence at the Earlham and the strength in experimental microbiome research at the Quadram Institute makes Norwich the ideal place for me to be based to take advantage of this. I am looking forward to building a new network of collaborators in this exciting area.”

Professor Quince’s research at EI and QIB will focus on:

  • Improving methods for metagenome strain resolution incorporating novel long-read technologies and library preparation, as well as plans to extend his methods for metagenome binning to eukaryotes such as fungi.
  • Developing novel microbiome analysis methods enabling strain phenotype prediction from MAGs, mechanistic approaches for integration of multi-omics and models for microbial community assembly.
  • Carrying out large-scale microbiome data analyses, continuing his previous work on AMR, anaerobic digestors and pediatric Crohn’s disease.
  • Commencing the Global Challenges Research Fund GastroPak project, which aims to determine the sources of non-viral gastroenteritis in Pakistan.

Having started his career as a PhD student in Theoretical Physics, where he studied ecosystem models at the University of Manchester, Professor Quince quickly sought to move away from purely theoretical work. Following time in Arizona and Toronto, he took up a fellowship to model microbial communities at the University of Glasgow.

Intrigued by the potential of next generation sequencing to profile microbiomes, Quince taught himself bioinformatics and went on to demonstrate that ‘sequencing noise’ was creating huge amounts of diversity in apparently simple microbial communities (Quince et al. Nature Methods 2009). He then developed some of the first tools for removing noise from amplicon sequences, enabling far more accurate estimates of diversity in microbial communities ranging from deep sea vents to the human gut.

Professor Ian Charles, Director of the Quadram Institute, said: “We’re delighted to be welcoming Chris Quince to the Norwich Research Park. His expertise will complement many of the strengths and research collaborations we have at that Quadram Institute and across the park.”

Professor Neil Hall, Director of the Earlham Institute, said: “Chris Quince brings an exciting mix of expertise and research interests and we’re delighted to welcome him to EI. We benefit from having a strong blend of research expertise and infrastructure, both at EI and on the wider Park. It’s the perfect place for someone like Chris to accelerate their research and form some exciting collaborations.”

Professor Quince will take up his new role in October 2020.