Metabolomics and bioinformatics service platforms
The AWRI established the South Australian node of Metabolomics Australia (Metabolomics SA) in 2008 as part of a national network with partners in Western Australia, Victoria, and Queensland. Metabolomics SA operates as a collaborative service platform that provides public and private researchers and industries with support, service and training as well as access to infrastructure and specialist expertise.
After a successful external review in 2018, Metabolomics SA secured substantial new investment to support its operations. Bioplatforms Australia, which manages funding through the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), together with the South Australian Government and the AWRI announced a collective investment of $11.1m for metabolomics and associated activities at the AWRI from 2019 to 2023. Funds will be used to replace in-demand mass spectrometry instruments and develop new capabilities in high resolution mass spectrometry and NMR spectroscopy for non-targeted metabolomics.
NCRIS-enabled Metabolomics Australia infrastructure services
In 2019/2020, instrument access and technical assistance were provided for projects across the food and beverage, environmental and biomedical sectors. The majority of users were within SA, with others from Tasmania, NSW, WA, Victoria and from overseas. Support was provided for smoke taint diagnostics for the grape and wine industry and also new material tests towards improved methods for volatile detection. Analytical methods were developed for profiling metabolites in aquatic organisms and for measuring plant biomarkers (to assist plant breeding). Volatile and/or non-volatile analyses conducted were for projects focused on optimising viticulture practices and refining whisky production processes. Statistics and modelling techniques were tested and applied to a human disease biomarker investigation.
Together with an international bioinformatics working group, the team published a review paper ‘MetaRbolomics’ which summarises existing R tools for the metabolomics/bioinformatics community. The work was also prepared for presentation at the International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology 2020. MStractor, a user-friendly workflow for non-targeted pre-processing of LC-MS data, was rebuilt and converted into a user-friendly R package. The package is freely available to download on GitHub, an online software sharing platform.