NEW YORK—For a spot news junkie, the sight of a podium-studded dais surrounded by people holding up recording devices is irresistible, especially on a hot summer day. So, I was delighted to happen this morning upon such a press conference on my way to the Scientific American office. The event was held to announce a 20-year lease location for the New York Genome Center—101 Avenue of the Americas. Call the area SoHo. Call it Hudson Square. The area could use some stronger economic juice, and New York City lately is also angling for greater leadership in the life sciences and tech sector.
The goal is to make the site the largest genomic research center in North America.
Construction is under way at the LEED Silver-certified building to house seven stories of labs and offices to support genomic sequencing and analysis with Illumina technology, bioinformatics, data mining and translational medicine (transforming discoveries into drugs and devices into treatments). A total of 11 mostly New York-area academic institutions, and some pharmaceutical and tech firms, will collaborate on the center. About $115 million has been raised so far. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is among the donors, along with the Simons Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Russell L. Carson, Anthony B. Evnin, and WilmerHale, but apparently the center will just get the city's name as its moniker. No egos.
The labs are set to open in spring 2013 (initially they were to open this year), giving the city a chance to start competing more aggressively with Boston and other U.S. small cities (not to mention China) in genomics research, a bit late to the party. Within a year, the center will generate 100 new jobs, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the event.
"Five years from now, this will grow to 500 new research jobs and the startups resulting from work here, work that could do so much to vanquish disease and reduce suffering around the world. It really is going to be amazing," he said.
"And we'll also produce thousands more jobs for New Yorkers and continue the ongoing revitalization of Lower Manhattan," he added. "I think we can talk about the effects here but really the effects on the whole world are what's most important."
The involved research institutions include Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Columbia University, Cornell University/Weill Cornell Medical College, The Jackson Laboratory, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York University/NYU School of Medicine, North Shore-LIF Health System, Rockefeller University and Stony Brook University.
Data warehousing will be provided at a biometric- and key-access-only site called the Sabey Intergate.Manhattan facility at 375 Pearl Street, guarded by NYPD and Homeland Security personnel. A pilot site for the Genomics Center currently is housed at Rockefeller University.
The center will soon undertake a large-scale whole genome sequencing project to study the genetic basis of susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease in at least dozens of patients' samples, with the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, part of North Shore-LIJ. The data from this effort will be made open access to the scientific community.
"Our data mining capabilities both at this site and in connection with the Sabey data storage capabilities are key to navigating…datasets for new insights into how variations and patterns amongst regulatory networks in human cells cause disease," said Nancy Kelley, founding executive director of the Genome Center.
"Data mining may also be key to identifying the reasons for adverse drug reactions and why some patients do not respond to currently available treatments. While genomics is a relatively new field, the recent discoveries in this area have been remarkable. They have had enormous impact for patients with cancer, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease, psychiatric disorders and type 2 diabetes."
Below are some more pics from the Genome Center's Web site that have the usual futuristic and social oddness to them of architectural renderings.