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to Launch Genomics Institute
the view of Provost Robert
Barchi Gr72 M72 GM73, the
burgeoning field of genomics is the biggest, most exciting transition
to hit the biological sciences since the advent of molecular biologyand
in many ways I think it will be more profoundly altering to the field
than molecular biology.
A strong statement,
and one that explains why the University recently announced that it was
establishing a Genomics Institute, one that draws on numerous schools
and disciplines and represents an investment of more than $75 million
over the next five years. The institute will be headed by Dr. David Roos,
professor of biology, while Dr. Richard Spielman, the Butterworth Professor
of Genetics, will serve as associate director. A new Cancer Genomics Program
of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute (AFCRI) at Penns Cancer
Center has also been launched in conjunction with the institute.
involves the large-scale analysis of complex biological systems. Instead
of studying biology one gene at a time, genomics considers the entire
genome and its manifestations. That approach can yield new engineering
technologies for data production and new computational strategies for
data integration and analysis.
of the Genomics Institute demonstrates once again that the University
is committed to playing a key role in the development of new fields of
knowledge for the 21st century, said Penn President Judith Rodin CW66,
when the institute was announced in February. Rodin, who had made the
institute a top priority, added that Penns emphasis on interdisciplinary
study and research will enable us to take full advantage of the exciting
new possibilities we expect to emerge from the field of genomics.
proteomics [the study of proteins expressed by a genome] represent a fundamental
revolution in the way we will approach the biological sciences in the
next decade, added Barchi. With Penns strengths in the biomedical sciences
and in computer and information sciences, we are uniquely situated to
play a leading role in this revolution. We intend to take full advantage
of our strengths and create new opportunities for breakthrough research
in these dynamic new sciences.
Penn has earmarked
nearly $38 million for the expansion of genomics-research facilities (including
13,000 square feet of the proposed Life Sciences Building-Phase One),
developing various support facilities, and recruiting new faculty in
the field. Existing grant support for genomics research and new grants
and fundraising initiatives should boost the total amount to more than
Institute itself is going to be a matrix organization that extends throughout
the biomedical parts of the campus and will include everything from the
School of Engineering and Applied Science and SAS and the veterinary school
to the medical-school complex and its research, said Barchi. So there
are already an awful lot of people on campus who are doing molecular biology
now and will be turning more and more to genomics research. In addition
we will be looking to bring in another half-dozen or so key faculty members
in areas in genomics that we feel need to be strengthened, and individual
schools and departments will undoubtedly be hiring another dozen or so
faculty members on their own that will interact with this institute.
four stated goals are:
To establish intellectual leadership in studying genomes as a whole and
undertake large-scale analysis of gene products.
To provide a focus for the genomics community, fostering interdisciplinary
projects that will bring together biology, medicine, engineering, and
computer science. The Genomics Institute will also link academics and
industryas appropriate, in the words of a Penn press release.
To advance the educational mission of the University, defining a new
discipline at the interface between biomedical research, engineering,
and computer science.
access to technology, ensuring rapid dissemination of genomics approaches
throughout biomedical research. One of those approachesthe new discipline
of bioinformaticscombines biology and computer science, and is dedicated
to the development, integration, and analysis of rich data-sets.
The Cancer Genomics
Program is an integral part of the overall genomics initiative that were
putting together, noted Barchi. And the people who are involved[Dr.]
Barbara Weber [director of the Breast Cancer Program at the AFCRI] and
the other people who are involved in running the Abramson Cancer Genomics
Programare partners and members of the group that is helping to determine
where the Genomics Institute goes.
have seen the rapid integration of biomedical research, to the extent
where it is no longer possible to distinguish between such previously
disparate disciplines as anatomy, biochemistry, botany, cell biology,
genetics, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, and zoology,
said Roos. It is now becoming possible to examine entire systems: for
example, all the genes in a genome, all the proteins in a cell, or all
the metabolic processes in a tissue.
personifies interdisciplinarity. In addition to his appointment in the
biology department (SAS), Roos is affiliated with the microbiology department
in the School of Medicine, the pathobiology department in the School of
Veterinary Medicine, and graduate programs in biology, biotechnology,
cell and molecular biology, computational biology/genomics, and parasitology.
On the whole,
Roos said, it is an incredibly exciting time to be a biologist, particularly
at Penn, which has a strong history of fostering interdisciplinary research.
has the potential to play an important role for the Philadelphia area,
When I look
at the areas that Philadelphia has to develop in as an economic center
and what we have to offer thats unique, said Barchi, at the top of
the list is the high density of biomedical facilities and life-sciences
research expertise and pharmaceutical industries, all in the same area.
So you have a natural concentration of for-profit industrial interest
in the life sciences, some of the most outstanding biomedical research
facilities in the world, and a high density of health-care delivery, tertiary-,
and quaternary-care facilities. So we have all the pieces here to put
together really a powerhouse. And of that, bioinformatics and genomics
and proteomics are going to be a major piece.
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