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New York Genome Center launches collaboration of 11 leading medical/research institutions

Kimberely Sirk
NEW YORK—In early November, the New York Genome Center(NYGC) launched what will become one of the largest genomic facilities in NorthAmerica, establishing an unprecedented, large-scale collaborative venture ingenomic medicine.

 
Eleven of the country's noteworthy private and academic medical centers formthe foundation of NYGC, with support from the city of New York as well asprivate companies and foundations.

 
NYGC's collaborating academic medical centers and research universities includeCold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Columbia University, Cornell University/WeillCornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Mount SinaiMedical Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York University/NYU Schoolof Medicine, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Jackson Laboratory, RockefellerUniversity and Stony Brook University. The Hospital for Special Surgery is anassociate founding member.

 
Together, the partner institutions reach more than 5 million patients and are knownas leaders in a variety of medical specialties where gene-based medicine willhave a huge impact in the coming years.
Through this collaboration, scientists and physicians from member institutionswill share diverse clinical and genomic data on a scale not yet realized inorder to discover the molecular underpinnings of disease, identify and validatebiomarkers, and accelerate development of novel diagnostics and targetedtherapeutics to improve clinical care. That these institutions serve one of themost diverse populations in the world—the "melting pot" that is New YorkCity—exemplifies the ability for this collaboration to build a data set that isrepresentative of the national and global population.
 
 
An independent, nonprofit consortium, the NYGC willestablish one of the largest genomics facilities in North America. The centerwill begin operations as early as spring 2012. Its 120,000 square-foot facilitywill be located in Manhattan, at a location as yet to be determined.

 
The NYGC will offer an initial technology platform of next-generationsequencers and will scale up to be fully operational within a year.
 
 
The facility will be unlike any other genomic center due tothe diversity of the partnership, and in the non-competitive way the collaborationcame about, says Nancy Kelley, founding executive director of the NYGC.
 
 
"This center took shape from the bottom up, rather than thetop down," Kelley says. "It combines academic and medical centers withtechnology members, and we are working on partnerships within thepharmaceutical industry."
 
 
The center considers the 11 current members as the foundingmembers, but associate members and other partners are still welcome.
 
 
"We've had conversations with others in the diagnostic andtherapeutics spaces," Kelley says. "The NYGC will not be strictly academic ormedical—we're looking for members who represent the full continuum ofdevelopment from bench to bedside, which we will have here for the first time."
 
 
"The New York Genome Center represents the largestcollaboration to date among New York City-based biomedical and clinicalresearch organizations. It will position its institutional partners to be atthe forefront of the rapidly evolving field of genomic science and enhance thecity's position as one of the foremost centers for medical research," notesRussell Carson, general partner, Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, whoserves as chairman of the center.
 
 
Genomics are in fact already a significant growth factor inthe economy, representing a more than $7 billion industry. The NYGC willleverage existing strengths in genomics and attract new talent to create a hubwhere companies that develop applications of this research will drive thefuture economy in the New York region. By 2025, the economic impact associatedwith commercial spin-off activities of the NYGC is expected to represent thelargest component of the total impact associated with the center.
 
 
The goal of $125 million in investment commitments todevelop the center is close to being met, with $100 million in pledgescollected thus far. The funds come from a variety of public and privatesources, including its founding members, the Simons Foundation, BloombergPhilanthropies, Russell L. Carson, Anthony B. Evnin and WilmerHale.
Kelley singles out the commitment by New York City MayorMichael Bloomberg's philanthropies, and adds that an additional $2.5 millioncould be in play based on the exact Manhattan location chosen for the project.
 
 
Other support has been committed from New York City EconomicDevelopment Corp. and the New York City Investment Fund.
 
 
The NYGC is working with commercial and technologycollaborators, including Illumina, a developer, manufacturer and marketer oflife science tools and integrated systems for the analysis of genetic variationand function, and Roche, a global healthcare company.
 
 
The technology that launched the biomedical revolution andmade the Human Genome Project possible—DNA sequencing—is once again on the cuspof transforming biomedical research and healthcare. While the decade followingthe sequencing of the human genome has contributed to knowledge of biology anddisease, the NYGC partners believe that next decade will be marked by atransition to clinical care based on genomic information.
 
 
Advancements being made in DNA sequencing technology areleading to a revolution in the practice of medicine. The cost and duration ofgenomic sequencing is rapidly falling, the federal government is making astrong commitment to support full implementation of electronic health records,and the number of targeted drugs and companion diagnostics entering clinicalpractice continues to rise.
 
 
Kelley adds that part of the attraction of the new facilitywill be the leading-edge laboratory space for principal investigators. Thatspace will accommodate sequencing instrumentation, robotics for high-throughputlibrary preparation, IT storage hardware for buffering and final data storageand bioinformatics and computational capabilities.
NYGC staff will be able to sequence full human genomes andfulfill custom sequencing requirements. On-staff experts will be able to take abiological sample and provide a full clinical interpretation. Besides clinicaldiagnostic and research work, the NYGC services will support investigatorresearch projects, collaborative work with academic institutions and industrialcontract work.
 
 
Kelley adds that success will be measured qualitatively tobegin.
 
 
"We believe in starting small, and making sure that wedeliver," she says. "The facility will get the founding members the servicesthey need to carry out their work. We'll also be sequencing and writing moregrants, especially for NIH funding."
 
 
She says the NYGC will also become known for creating anintellectual and scientific environment from which all members can benefit.
 
"Our facility will create the environment for all members todevise new programs around disease states to find cures," she concludes. "Ourmembers will use both old and new approaches for cures and for staying well,and bring these approaches to medical practice. We want to establish New Yorkas a global thought leader in the genomics area."
 

Kimberely Sirk

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