2021 NEOF de novo genome Competition

The NERC Environmental Omics Facility provides access  to  omics capabilities (Genomics, Metabolomics and Proteomics) to the UK environmental research community. 

To help scientists working within the NERC remit to take advantage of the facility’s capabilities, NEOF provides funding for small pilot/development projects that would benefit from the latest genome sequencing technologies. 

Applicants should consult the web pages of the Centre for Genomic Research (which hosts the genomic capability of NEOF) for a fuller description of the capabilities and technologies available. Enquiries and project discussion can be made through our enquiries page.

In this pilot competition we wish to enable users to ask new environmental or evolutionary questions by developing high-quality reference genomes for non-model species. New genomic technologies, notably Pacific Biosciences HiFi long-read sequencing, now allow the NERC community to interrogate the genome of any species, including those of special scientific or environmental importance, that will produce insight into biodiversity, adaptation to climate change and other questions. We particularly encourage applications that can demonstrate how a reference genome would enable further genomic studies or larger scale funding through NERC, or other, grant applications.

We will deliver this competition in partnership with the Darwin Tree of Life (DToL) project. DToL has the ambition to provide reference quality genomes for every species in Britain and Ireland. DToL is initially sequencing representative species from each taxonomic family. Where a researcher wishes to sequence a species found in Britain and Ireland, we will in the first instance liaise with DToL to determine whether it can be expedited through the DToL project. In cases where species are not found in Britain and Ireland, or where a species is not a priority for DToL, we will assess the technical feasibility and allocate resources based on a short scientific case, which will be assessed by our independent Steering Committee. Normally pilot projects would support the genome sequencing of a single species, but we will consider small sets of species or ecotypes if there is sufficient scientific justification and if resources allow.

Note that researchers must ensure that all relevant ethical permissions are in place before submitting samples. For samples originating outside the UK, all samples are subject to the Nagoya protocol. NEOF reserves the right to ask for documentary evidence of permits and approvals.

Following your enquiry, we will judge the technical feasibility of the project based on genome size and sample availability, contacting you for further details if necessary. We will liaise with the Darwin Tree of Life Project if appropriate.

If your proposed project is suitable for a NEOF pilot, we will ask you to fill in a short application form, outlining the availability and suitability of samples, confirming that all relevant permits or licences are in place, and a justification of the scientific case to cover:

  • How a reference genome will aid the work of your group and of others, noting the potential for studentship training, further grant or fellowship proposals, or to applied conservation, etc.
  • How other available genome resources will maximise the impact of this reference genome or, alternatively, how the lack of related reference genomes or the unusual nature of the proposed reference genome make this a valuable resource.

Applicants should note the following:

  • Only one project per applicant will be considered
  • Samples suitable for analysis (i.e. meeting minimum quality and quantity requirements) must be delivered to NEOF by Wednesday 15th December 2021; failure to deliver suitable samples to the NEOF by the submission deadline will result in funding being withdrawn.
  • All relevant ethical permissions must be in place before submitting samples.
  • Samples may either be prepared in the applicants’ own laboratory or at NEOF, which houses expertise and equipment for nucleic acid extraction and QC. If this is required, please flag up during project discussions.
  • The PI must be eligible to receive a NERC grant. For more information, consult http://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/application/eligibility/.


Potential applicants must send NEOF an Enquiry to discuss their specific requirements between Thursday 20 May and Thursday 10 June 2021


Applications should be made via the Access form. The closing date for this call is 5.00 p.m. on Thursday 1st July 2021

Only applications where initial contact has taken place before Thursday 10 June and a formal quotation has been obtained before the closing date will be considered.


Empowering the next generation of environmental researchers.

If you would like more information about NEOF and the services we offer, or make any other enquiry, please complete our form.