Can I get discounted sequencing based on Center memberships?


Discounts can be obtained for members of certain Research Centers (see below for a list). Typically these give you a 50% discount on sequencing, up to a limit. At the current basal recharge rate ($3.00) that means these Center Members pay only $1.50 per lane.

The Core staff (and specifically the Director) can give a PI access to a Center discount, but we cannot be responsible for designating which samples are related to Center-appropriate goals. Consequently, it is up to the PI or their lab members to indicate which samples – or perhaps which accounts – are to be granted a specific Center discount. Below are instructions on how to get discounted sequencing.

Why does the Core offer Discounts?

To improve the quality of research at U of M, several Research Centers have been established that provide support for research endeavors. Typically supported through NIH P-30 Center Grants (or similar mechanisms), these Centers often give their members benefits such as discounts for use of the Core labs, to be used for work appropriate for the Center’s focus.

It is a key point that each Center supports only research along with specific lines. Many Principal Investigators have multiple grants, and only some of these may support research relevant to a particular Center. It would be inappropriate to award discounts to all the grants for one PI.

The Core staff (and specifically the Director) can give a PI access to a Center discount, but we cannot be responsible for designating which accounts are used for Center-appropriate studies. Consequently, it is up to the PI to indicate which accounts, or even which specific samples, are to be granted a specific Center discount.

Which Centers offer Discounts?

Current Centers

As of this writing (14-Feb-18), only two Centers offer discounts:

  • University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Because sequencing is so inexpensive, many Centers have chosen to use their money to subsidize other (more expensive) technologies.

If your Center is not on this list, you might encourage its Directors to contact the Core Director, Dr. Robert Lyons, to discuss the possibility of a new Center discount.

Why do some Centers only enable discounts for one of my accounts?

Some Centers prefer to regulate more tightly what research gets their discount, so as to ensure that they are funding Center-appropriate research. The DRTC, for example, specifies the eligible account numbers as part of the membership application process.

The Core’s discount system is set up to allow participating Centers a variety of ways to regulate their allocations. Centers can grant blanket permission to a PI, and entrust them with choosing the relevant accounts or samples, or they can grant discounts only to specific account numbers (e.g. specific federal grants). Centers can also ‘cap’ the usage of their grants to more equitably allocate the resources among participants.

Why are Center Discounts capped?

The Core’s budget is calculated to break even as close as possible. We are not allowed to generate a profit or run at a loss. The budget is reviewed periodically by the Cost Reimbursement Office to ensure that we are abiding by these terms.

One consequence of this ‘break-even’ dictum is that the Core cannot itself give discounts. There is no money to do this, and we have to get back our costs somehow. Each dollar spent must be recovered
in recharges and every recharge directly reflects the real operating costs.

Fortunately, various Center Grants are willing to provide some funds to help defray the cost of sequencing for its members. There are some specific restrictions on this policy:

  • The Core cannot lose money – so the discounts we offer MUST be offset, dollar-for-dollar, by funds appropriated by the Center.
  • We must, therefore, track Center discounts. We terminate the discount when its payout equals the amount originally given the Core (the ‘Center’ cap).
  • What if the Center Cap is hit, and you – a bonafide Center member – hadn’t been sequencing and therefore got none of the discounts? That would seem very inequitable to you. The ‘PI Cap’ was instituted to help distribute the discounts more equitably. Each PI is granted discounts only up to some limit representing a fraction of the Center’s total discount value. Thus, no single lab or subset of labs can drain the discount before others even get a chance. With PI Caps, even low-volume sequencing labs still get a piece of the discount pie.
  • To make sure that the Center gets its money’s worth, we set the PI cap rather liberally; some PI’s won’t use their share, so others get a larger slice of the pie. The Core Director periodically evaluates the Caps throughout the Fiscal Year to verify that they are set correctly.
  • If some Center isn’t being used much, the center Directors (and the funding agency) may be reluctant to continue Core funding. The Director tries to monitor such situations and will take appropriate action, perhaps raising the PI Cap or emailing reminders to the PI’s.

The Core doesn’t benefit from Center Discounts?

The DNA Sequencing Core neither profits nor loses via its agreements to provide Center discounts. We have to give back almost every dollar we take in from a Center, and in fact managing Center discounts with all their attendant records-keeping and status reports, can be quite a headache. We do, however, derive indirect benefit from them. The biggest benefit is simply that UM researchers are encouraged to use the Core if they get price breaks. The more sequencing we do, the cheaper it gets – simple economics of scale. This is why the Core Laboratory system was created in the first place.

What happens when I reach the PI cap for Center XYZ?
Why doesn't the XYZ Center appear as an option for my lab? See the next question.
Why haven't I been getting my XYZ Center Discount?

There are several reasons you may not be getting discounted sequencing:

  1. You are not approved to use the Center’s discount.

    You must apply for membership with the Center, AND for some Centers, you must request the use of their DNA Sequencing discount in a separate application. It’s their policy, not mine. Sorry.

  2. The Center may not have notified Dr. Lyons of your eligibility.

    This usually doesn’t happen.

  3. The Core Director may not have entered your eligibility in the computer.

    This usually doesn’t happen.

  4. You and your lab members haven’t been selecting that discount.

    This is a very common problem. There are two ways to request the discount when dealing with the DNA Sequencing Core:

    • You (as PI) can designate that Center as the default discount for specified account(s).
    • Your lab members can select that discount when submitting samples.

    Either of these would get you discounted sequencing. If you’re an approved member that has not been getting discounted sequencing, you are apparently doing neither one. Or…

  5. You may have hit your PI Cap for that Center, or the Center may have hit its overall cap.

    Check your past billings and see if you used to get the discount. If you did, and it’s simply not showing up in the pop-up option boxes, it’s a good bet that you’ve hit the PI Cap (or the Center reached its cap).Note that sometimes PI Caps are raised, if for example the center hasn’t been requested enough. You may see that Center reappear as an option for you if the Cap gets increased.

    I will soon add a section to the PI Administration page that allows PIs to find out how much discount they’ve received from any Center, and what the current Cap is. Stay tuned.

    Please review the page How do I get Discounted Sequencing? for how to proceed.

Can I get Center Discounts applied Retroactively?

Calculating and policing Discounts is a very demanding task for the Core Director. It takes an immense fraction of my time. To go back and retroactively grant discounts places an unacceptable additional burden on my time. I am sorry, but I cannot consider these requests. You must set the discount *before* you submit samples in order for it to be applied to them.

What if I'm a Member of Multiple Centers?

Perhaps you are hoping that you can get free sequencing by requesting multiple discounts at once. Sorry, but we allow only one discount per sample. You can, however, switch between multiple Center discounts whenever you deem it appropriate.

Some comments on how and why to do this:

  • You should already know how…
    …to set up the default discount for an account. Do this for EACH of your accounts in our records. Don’t know how? Back to <a href=””>this</a> page. You should also be aware that you can override the default and select any available discount at the time of Sample Submission. Just look for a pull-down menu labeled ‘Choose Center Discount:’.
  • Choosing that One Discount:
    You can use whatever discount you feel is appropriate for the sample. Most Centers like to believe that you’re using their money for Center-appropriate research. They also usually ‘cap’ how much discount you receive. When you’ve used your share, that discount ends (until the Center’s next Fiscal Year).
  • What to do when you hit the ‘cap’ on one Center:
    The technician who submits that last lucky sample will get a message in big red letters stating that the discount they’re using has terminated. Their next sample will now default to ‘No Discount Selected’ unless they do something. They should select another from the pull-down menu on the ‘Sample Submissions’ page. At first opportunity, the PI (or the PI’s designated representative – or ANYONE in the lab) should use the PI Administration pages to assign a new default discount to that account number.
  • Should I switch Centers occasionally?
    Yes, it is a good idea to switch centers occasionally. Most Centers justify their existence by demonstrating that their members USE their services. If you ignore a Center for which you are eligible, they have a harder time on the next competitive renewal. Do everyone a favor – spread your use of discounts among all the Centers to which you are entitled.

Here are the steps you should follow in order to obtain a Center Discount:

  • Apply for Center membership. Usually, this involves a simple application.
  • When membership is approved, ask the Center administrators to notify the Sequencing Core Director, (Dr. Robert Lyons), of this membership. The Core staff will enter your membership into our computer.
  • You then can obtain discounts using one of the following methods:
    • The PI can set a default discount for each account number:
      1. From the Core Home Page, click on ‘PI Administration‘.
      2. Enter the PI’s login name and password and click ‘Login’.
      3. Click on ‘Accounts’ to view and edit your list of valid accounts.
      4. Click on an account number for which Center discount is appropriate.
      5. There should be a pull-down menu of Centers. If the Core Director has properly entered your Center memberships, the list should now include all appropriate Centers. Select one.
      6. Click the ‘Save Account Changes’ button to permanently set the discount.

      Each of your accounts can have a different default discount.

    • The Lab Members can independently select the discount for each sample: This one’s simple – just select the correct center in the pull-down menu of the ‘Sample Submission’ page.
    • Only VALID centers will appear in these pull-down menus, so if you see it, you can use it.
  • Samples submitted before the discount was requested will NOT be given the discount, even though they may not yet have been sequenced. All discounts must be requested during the sample submission process. We will not be responsible for applying any discounts after the samples are entered into our computer.