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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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