PacBio Chief Scientist Heads to NYC to Run New $100M Genomics Center at Mt. Sinai

5/16/11Follow @xconomy

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biology and the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t move fast enough to answer questions like this, as long as information is kept inside the proprietary walls of academia and industry. So, along with Merck’s senior vice president of cancer research, Stephen Friend, he co-founded Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit that is seeking to spark culture change through an open-source movement for biology. Schadt says he still remains involved with Sage, and that his new role with Mt. Sinai will put him in a position to provide more data that Sage wants for its open-source database.

By joining Mt. Sinai, Schadt and PacBio are walking away from a potential partnership with UC San Francisco, which had been wooing Schadt for months. It also raises questions about what will happen next for the New York Genome Center, a fledgling effort to bring together a number of New York’s top biomedical research centers to create a shared world-class genomics research facility. Mt. Sinai’s Charney said the New York Genome Center effort is still in its planning phases, and that “we’ll assess” how Mt. Sinai could be involved with such an effort over time.

The genomics institute at Mt. Sinai will have plenty of horsepower on its own, according to Schadt and Charney. The financial commitment over the next five to seven years is “well over $100 million,” Charney says. The institute will be led by 8-10 principal investigators, each of whom will have staff working under them carrying out technical functions such as handling sequencing machines, databases, and the computational work to make sense of the data, Schadt says.

The resources of Mt. Sinai are part of what attracted him to New York, Schadt says. Mt. Sinai is currently engaged in one of the biggest building projects ongoing in New York, which will be the new home of the Institute starting in the fall of 2012, Charney says. The facility is part of a more than $2.25 billion strategic investment plan at Mt. Sinai, which Schadt says is supposed to “transform research, and see how we can move this into clinical practice faster.” While UCSF had the same shared vision as Mt. Sinai, there was a greater amount of financial backing in New York, Schadt says. “It’s a pretty amazing transformation,” he says.

Charney says he personally “hit it off” with Schadt, and bonded over their shared competitiveness, and interest in fast decision-making and minimal bureaucracy. Schadt, who famously wears a white polo shirt and hiking shorts everywhere he goes, even in meetings with high-powered executives, was assured that he could dress how he likes in the more buttoned-down East Coast atmosphere. Schadt, who loves to snowboard, might also have to fly out West to get in some of that favored form of leisure.

“The West Coast is awesome, and it has great snowboarding, but it’s not as if Eastern seaboard doesn’t have anything going on,” Schadt says. “It’s an amazing city.”

One of the big attractions for Schadt in New York is the deep talent pool he can draw from. Schadt, who is trained as a biomathematician, is looking to tap into the industry of quantitative traders who use algorithms to help hedge funds profit in the stock market.

“These people mine monster amounts of information to make rapid decisions on important things,” Schadt says. “That kind of know-how is a valuable asset that hasn’t been as fully leveraged for genomics as it could be. That will definitely be one of my missions.”

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  • Luke Timmerman

    Here’s a comment from Stephen Friend, the president and co-founder of Sage Bionetworks.

    “Eric’s move to Mt Sinai is an awesome opportunity for him and the group he will form there to advance the building of cutting edge network driven models of disease. Do not be surprised if this helps New York become further established as the new hot area for biotechnology. We at Sage are excited as this affords an opportunity for him to continue as a Sage Board member, function there as leader of one the key Sage Federation labs, and quite probably develop a new Sage outpost on the East Coast.”

  • Pingback: Genomic research center brings industry and academia together | The Decision Tree

  • Andras Pellionisz

    There is an array of most remarkable statements in Luke’s assessment of Eric becoming the Director of the Mount Sinai Institute of Genomics AND Multiscale Biology. One axiom is that “If you’re not world-class in genetics, you can’t be a world-class medical school and academic medical center”. All will take this to the heart – but precious few will be able to erect such “facility as part of a more than $2.25 billion strategic investment plan at Mt. Sinai”. And the money part may be relatively easy amidst the Battelle Study assessing the economic impact of Genome Revolution (just in the USA) to $796 Bn (bigger than the 2010 Groos Domestic Product of Brazil, about the same as the GDP of Russia, and just slightly smaller than the GDP of India). A harder part will be to realize with leading scientists that “Genomics became Informatics” (said LeRoy Hood first, 2002, and now the Battelle Study clinched the paradigm shift). Wherever the “old school” is entrenched, progress might be slowed – lending a chance for aggressively budding institutes to leapfrog to the top by embracing “rebels turned leaders” – as Andrew Pollack, NYT calls in his coverage a spade a spade. Perhaps the third very remarkable observation of Luke is that Eric amidst the NYC financial centers will be able to draw proprietary algos and safeguarded HPC solutions that “financial calculation” has validated over many decades (fractal stock-trading will be an eye-opener for those who made a fortune – and now realize that *their* computing savvy could be leveraged at ease at a time when boomers and their families face “late onset hereditary diseases” (most notably, cancers). This can perhaps be outmatched in California only, where “defense computing” has also worked out and validated massively parallel, superfast and small footprint-low consumption chips and HPC solutions (FPGA-s and GPU-s) to run the fiercely safeguarded defense-validated algos; Pattern recognition, Neural Nets, Multiscale and Fractal (scale-free) coding, etc. Having worked at both pillars (NYC and Silicon Valley) for decades) IMHO Eric “asked for it”; picked the most diverse US cultures to bridge. If anyone can do it, Eric will! – Andras Pellionisz