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Brown Genomics Center Gets NCRR Support

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Brown University has won a $5.1 million grant from the National Center for Research Resources to fund ongoing activities in its Center for Genomics and Proteomics, which provides support and access to resources for a wide range of systems biology research efforts.

Awarded through NCRR's Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program, the five-year grant will be used to maintain the facility, which provides genomics and other technologies to Brown and other regional Rhode Island research entities, as well as services for fees, Brown Professor of Medical Science Walter Atwood told GenomeWeb Daily News yesterday.

The center also includes proteomics and functional genomics research tools, a transgenic and knockout mice resource, bioimaging facilities, and it provides training, supervision, and consultation in current and emerging research technologies.

The COBRE grants are part of NCRR's Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program, and are used to provide support for biomedical research in states and regions that historically have not received significant levels of funding from the National Institutes of Health.

The grant largely will support the salaries and work provided under service contracts for the genomics facilities at the center, which include tools such as arrays from Affymetrix, Illumina's GAIIx and HiSeq sequencers, and PCR tools, Atwood said. The center currently has six full-time staff members.

Researchers at Brown and in the region are using the center to study "everything from gene expression on a genome-wide scale, genomic markers of autism, aging, cancer," and research conducted by "hundreds of different researchers in the community," Atwood told GWDN.

"The idea in the long-run [for the center] is to make these kinds of facilities self-supporting, mostly by generating user fees," he explained, adding that even getting to fifty percent self-supporting would be a step toward making the center more permanent and would warrant the university's continued support.

As GWDN reported earlier this year, NIH this year will dismantle NCRR in order to start a new center that will focus on translational research, called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. After NCRR is broken up, the current NIH plans call for the IDeA program to be moved to an interim unit run by the Division of Program Coordination and Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the Director.

Atwood said that the NCRR COBRE support has been an important and unique program for Brown, and that in spite of the school's location in the center of the Northeast and its historic reputation, the COBRE funding has filled a need.

He noted that COBRE grants are generally used to support and develop research in states such as North Dakota or Alabama, that have not received large amounts of NIH funding, but pointed out that Brown is a small university that historically focused on undergraduate education.

"Honestly, 10 years ago Brown had very little research infrastructure to speak of, and this program has been hugely important to allow us to get the kinds of modern day research infrastructure we need," said Atwood.