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Clinton, Schumer Say VA's 'Stalling' on SUNY Genebank is Getting 'Ridiculous'

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - New York's US Senators are trying to spur the Department of Veteran's Affairs to fulfill its end of an agreement to help establish a genebank program at the Center for Functional Genomics at the University of Albany, as the VA agreed to do in 2003.
 
In a letter sent to Veteran's Affairs Secretary James Nicholson this week, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said the lack of movement on the VA's behalf toward the biorepository has stalled an important research program and has been an inconvenience for the university.
 
"It is absolutely ridiculous that this innovative and job-creating program has been stalled for so long," Schumer wrote.
 
"This project has the potential of not only accelerating the identification of genetic linkages to diseases and the development of new therapies, but also of significantly enhancing the medical research program at the VA and creating jobs in the Capital Region," the senator continued.
 
The project germinated in 2002, when Paulette McCormick, a former director of Genomic Research for the VA and a professor at SUNY Albany, proposed to the VA the creation of a biorepository that would use VA-collected blood samples from servicemen and -women. SUNY Albany researchers then would perform genomic and proteomic analyses on the samples and would house them as a resource.
 
It is believed that such a biobank would make an excellent research resource because the military and the VA maintain organized records on veterans.
 
The university and the VA signed a contract for the repository in December 2003. Since then, however, “despite several requests by University of Albany to have the program implemented, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has failed to act,” according to the senators.
 
The Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC, and its branch office in Albany, NY, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. The State University of New York, Albany, also did not return calls for comment.

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