EFI Sequencing Course, Vienna, June 6 - 12, 1999
By Gottfried Fischer, Christien Voorter, Ella van den Berg-Loonen
During the 12th EFI Annual conference held in Strasbourg from March 25 to 28 1998 the EFI Education Committee asked via a questionnaire what educational activities the attendants would expect. A vast majority voted for the possibility to learn sequencing. Consequently, a sequencing course was suggested to the EFI board, and its members reacted positively to this idea. Regarding the participants the course should address colleagues who were seriously thinking of starting to type by sequencing or who had already first experiences with this technique. At the same time it was stated that especially the laboratories in Central Europe could benefit from such a course most. Given the fact that many theoretical and general aspects of sequencing have been dealt with at Education Sessions during the last EFI meetings the course should, as a contrast, stress the practical work.
The first question was, where the course should take place. Vienna was chosen for several reasons, first its geographic location made it easily accessible for the Central European countries. Second, the Department of Blood Group Serology in Vienna was well equipped and experienced with three generations of sequencing devices (ABI 373, 377 and 310), so part of the infrastructure was already there. Third, people at the institutes were enthusiastic to organize such a course. In order to provide a more comprehensive overview of the technique, however, a different sequencing technology should also be offered to the participants. The group of Maastricht University Hospital offered its expertise and managed to involve Amersham - Pharmacia Biotech in this course.
The course was financed by a course fee of Euro 250 and sponsoring by companies. Amersham-Pharmacia supplied us with two sequencers, their HLA-typing kits, computers and analysis software and, a generous donation. ABI, eventually, paid part of the hotel costs and sponsored the social evening. So, finally, the participants were granted with accommodation, breakfast and lunch, free public transport and a social evening at the "Heurigen" (= a Viennese place where one can taste young wine and talk, in principle, about everything, but usually about life and death). All they had to do for that was to do some sequencing. And that means work hard, of course. In addition, EFI generously paid the travel costs to applicants. In the end, the expenses could be covered by the course fee and the support from the companies.
Upon the announcement of the course in the EFI Newsletter a total of 20 colleagues from all over Europe applied for the course from whom we chose 10. A team from Maastricht led the Pharmacia ALF express approach. They managed to transfer all relevant materials from Maastricht to Vienna so that they could run the sequencing in their usual way. Members of the DNA lab in the Department of Blood Group Serology in Vienna took care of the participants struggling with the four color fluorescence technique. A list of all teachers and participants as well as their addresses is given in Table 1.
We started on Monday morning with a short introduction by Christien Voorter. Then the participants were divided in two groups. The ABI group typed the HLA-Cw and HLA-DRB1 alleles of a patient by Tuesday evening, before the visit to the "Heurigen". The PCR amplification products had been already prepared in advance, and exons 1, 2 and 3 of the class I and exon 2 of the class II gene had to be sequenced according to the Vienna protocols. The ALF express group sequenced exons 2 and 3 of HLA A, B and Cw and exon 2 of HLA DRB1 using the Maastricht protocols. On Wednesday the participants were expected to change groups. However, some of the participants decided to stick to their groups, since they had already been working with the respective machines at home. These already experienced workers tried to perform a complete HLA class I and II typing of their own blood in the second half of the week, the others performed the same task as before on a different machine. A total of 6 participants changed machines, the rest stayed.
The participants appeared very enthusiastic and motivated during the course and it was a pleasure to host them. Though, in the end some grumbled that there had been too little spare time. In principle they were right, the programme was a little ambitious and dense. But on the other hand, people were expected to work hard and in this respect one of the aims of the course was fulfilled.
It was not the intention of the course to give a comprehensive survey on sequencing, by contrast, we restricted ourselves exactly to the protocols describing routine methods as performed in the two teaching laboratories. This had the advantage that the teachers knew very well what they were speaking. This very subjective way implicates, on the other hand, that we communicated protocols that were tailored to and optimised for the facilities and people of the teaching laboratories and did not take into consideration the needs of the participants laboratories Hopefully, enough motivation was conferred during the course that the participants will amend and modify the technique according to their requirements.
Table 1 - Instructors and Participants
© The European
Federation for Immunogenetics