Sci-Life-Lab unlocked!


You may not be familiar with adenosine(A), thymine(T), guanine(G), cytosine(C), but it is impossible that you never heard of DNA sequencing! As we all know, DNA sequencing is an amazing technique that “deciphers” the secret codes which hide in your body. It differentiates you from any other individual in the world; it can probably tell your eye color, where you come from, and even prognose diseases! It is difficult to explain DNA sequencing in this blog, but I can tell you where the most DNA sequencings in Stockholm are performed: Science For Life Laboratory, or”Scilifelab” we usually call it!

Thanks to the course Frontier in Translational Medicine, a guided tour inside the Scilifelab was arranged  for my class. We were fascinated not only because it would allow us to learn how the institute operates; but also we could get in tough with the bioinformaticians working there —- which would certainly be beneficial for our future career path.

Established in the year 2010, Scilifelab is a collaboration between 4 most renown higher education institutions in Scandinavia: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Karolinska Institutet (KI), Stockholm University (SU) and Uppsala University. (Coincidently, as my program is also a collaboration between KTH, KI and SU, we were recognized sometimes as “Scilife students” by mistake. But we are not (X 1000 times).) Now, Scilifelab is a national center of life science research in Sweden:  it has hundreds of its own research teams, research projects and just published about 100 scientific papers in the year 2016. The appearance of the building looks as modern as its technologies and services:

Science for Life Laboratory in dusk, Solna, Stockholm

The first thing I noticed was that labs in Scilifelab distinguished itself from most of the labs I used to work:

Left: a molecular biology lab I use to work in                               Right: a lab in Scilifelab

The reason why the inside of Scilifelab looks so different to a traditional “wet lab” could be, DNA sequencing requires more computational steps such as alignment, analysis as well as the help of machines, but less manual practice: reagent bottles, pipettes are no longer so necessary.

When we walked along the corridor our eyes were attracted by 3 “Santas” who dressed themselves in red. Our guide Ms Sherwood immediately clarified that they were indeed scientists preparing samples for DNA sequencing. In order to prevent contamination or damage, samples for DNA sequencing must be handled with extreme care: they must be processed in clean room with technicians covered with proper protective clothes. She further added that the Swedish History Museum is a big partner of Scilifelab: bones from ancient human remain were sent here for analysis to uncover the important anthropologic information such as their age, origin, cause of death etc.

Three “Santas” working in Scilifelab

If Scilifelab is the heart of bioinformatics research in Sweden, then this small room is the heart of Scilifelab. It is the first time for me to see so many DNA sequencing machines: the Swedish government invested millions of krones in this single room! In terms of number and quality, it has the leading facility in the world.

“Heart of Scilifelab”, one side

Like other working places in Sweden, Scilifelab offers a very nice and international working environment. At the ground floor there is a cafeteria, a reception with two staff; most of people work here speak fluent English. At the same time, it is very “Swedish” —- yes, I am saying that it has a kitchen with microwave and a machine offering free coffee on every floor!

A kitchen at Scilifelab

Can’t wait for working in Scilifelab after reading this blog? The good news as students in my program is, Scilifelab offers a few thesis projects (click here to open)! I certainly will give a try next year. And you?