Science center to get $200 million

Yale will invest $200 million in the creation of the Yale Center for Genomics and Proteomics over the next three to five years, the University announced this week.

The funding will not only allow the University to build new facilities and renovate existing ones but also to hire new faculty members and develop research programs devoted to the study of genes and proteins.

This new science initiative is part of the $1 billion recently committed to the sciences. Two years ago, Yale announced a $500 million investment in science and engineering, and then a month later it announced a $500 million dollar investment in the Yale School of Medicine.

“This is a very important enhancement for the biological and biomedical sciences,” Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield said. “New technologies are coming forward that allow scientists in lots of disciplines to explore research at a different level. As more and more of our faculty want to be able to use these new technologies, we want to make it possible to give them access to state-of-the-art technologies.”

By creating a center “without walls,” the University plans both to create facilities that span the entire campus and to bring people from many different areas of expertise into contact with each other.

“We feel that we already have a very strong critical mass of researchers in the areas of genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and medical genomics [and] that putting together these people under one umbrella organization will not only raise the visibility of research, but it will also allow us to forge those relationships across the campus that we couldn’t do before,” said chemistry professor Craig Crews, who will be in charge of the chemical genomics wing of the new center.

Biology professor Michael Snyder will be the center’s first director but was not available for comment yesterday.

The new center will concentrate its efforts on studying the genetic and protein codes of organisms. Recent advancements in the field of genomics have made research in the field more lively.

“There have been recent advances in technology that have allowed us to address novel questions in biology, in particular how changes occur inside cells,” Crews said.

Administrators also hope the center will provides students with new educational opportunities.

“We think it’s important for the students to have access to education and technologies in the area,” Hockfield said.

In addition, Yale hopes its new facility will create new relationships with corporate and industrial partners.

“We’re looking forward to the center amplifying our ability to secure outside funding for these projects,” Hockfield said. “There will be natural collaborations with industry.”

Yale already has laboratories dedicated to genetic research, but the new initiative will greatly improve facilities.

“We are not starting from scratch here,” Yale President Richard Levin said. “We have the tech lab at the medical school, which already is a world-renowned biotechnology core research facility. They have a lot of the expensive machines for gene sequencing that are used widely. We will be building on a strength.”

While Yale has already made substantial contributions to biomedical research in the past, biology professor Ronald Breaker said he expects Yale to make a much greater impact in the future.

“In my opinion, two of the three types of bio-chips that are being developed today by industry and academia were created at Yale,” Breaker said. “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Yale can contribute.”

Hockfield said that while other universities have announced investments in genomics, Yale has shaped its initiative according to the University’s vision of the field’s future.

“We’ll see whether we can get ahead of the game,” Hockfield said. “I think we’ve used the last year or two to think about how to best develop these things in the Yale context.”

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