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not only provide in-house genomic sequencing, analytics, and bioinformatics services, but also take that information and use it to conduct medical studies.
“This is not ‘unusual’—this is completely unheard of,” Darnell says. “Genome centers don’t do clinical medicine. They do genomic science—except the [NYGC]. We’re going to do both.”
Darnell added that the NYGC is creating what will become a “global academic institute of the future,” in that it will bring different entities together to move forward multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional projects.
“We’re going to share clinical information and do these projects as a consortium here in the city,” Darnell says. “The problems are too complex to try to [solve] by ourselves, and we need all of our associates and the power of synergy.”
The NYGC currently has 16 of Illumina’s (NASDAQ: ILMN) HiSeq 2500 DNA sequencers, with the capacity to hold 80 such machines once the space is fully staffed and equipped. Even at existing levels, the NYGC can sequence 1 trillion base pairs of DNA in a single day, Darnell says.
The NYGC is staffed with an in-house team of genomic scientists and informaticists, and is hiring outside faculty members as well. About 50 people, including 30 researchers, currently work there—the plan is for 300 to staff the facility by the end of 2014, and 500 within five years.
The center has space for gene sequencing, bioinformatics, translational research labs, a “CLIA lab” (a facility that can test human specimens), a conference center, and an “Innovation Center” to test and evaluate new technology. Its office areas are open-spaced, and spatially flexible—NYGC put much of the furniture on wheels, for instance, so it can reconfigure workstations and lab settings depending on what projects are taking place.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, has made several moves to try to spur the growth of the city’s ability to commercialize its life sciences research. His administration put $5 million in financing towards startup costs to build the NYGC facility, helped established the Alexandria Center for Life Science on Manhattan’s East Side (which currently houses labs for ImClone Systems and Pfizer), and poured cash into the development of facilities at the Brooklyn Army Terminal meant to contain lab space for life sciences startups in the area.
“Our administration’s investment in the [NYGC] is part of our overall strategy of fostering…an innovation economy in New York,” Bloomberg said, before leaving the NYGC with this: “Bob [Darnell] and Tom, let me just say what I always say to all my new employees—don’t screw it up.”
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