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Duke to Break up Genome Institute into New Centers

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Duke University plans to break up the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy into several new programs that will focus on science policy, applied genomics and precision medicine research, and genomics education, the university said yesterday.

Duke said its plan is to enable its genomics programs to evolve to keep up with the changing landscape of genomics-related fields in general. The faculty and staff from IGSP, which has reaped over $260 million in grant funding since it launched a decade ago, will be shifted into these new programs.

The changes will take place over the summer, just as IGSP's founding director Hunt Willard completes his term in the post. On June 30, the IGSP will split into three distinct units that will continue to work together on projects and interdisciplinary research collaborations.

The unveiling of the plan to break up the institute comes several months after the university completed a review of the IGSP's activities and portfolio, which GenomeWeb Daily News reported in November.

Duke said one new center, headed by Professor Greg Wray, will provide education, research, and training in genomics and computational biology, and will host core resources.

"The center will take a quantitative approach to fundamental genomic questions from a wide variety of fields, including medicine, engineering, environment and the natural sciences," and will house faculty and students who "are pushing the boundaries of genomic analysis," Duke said in a statement. "We will be implementing the technology that other people are going to be using in five years," Wray said.

Professor Geoff Ginsburg will lead a new Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine Center, which will focus on using genomics insights to improve medical care through molecular profiling, biomarker development, and quantitative analysis.

"This new center will discover, develop, and apply genome-based diagnostic and prognostic tests with the goal of enhancing the efficiency and efficacy of health care delivery," Ginsburg said.

A third center focused on bioethics and policy will be headed by Professor Nita Farahany. Called Duke Science and Society, this center will bring in master's students focused on bioethics and science policy beginning next fall.

"It will address a wide range of ethical, legal, and policy questions about the interrelationship between science and society, and foster new opportunities for researchers and students to share their insights with the wider public," Farahany said.

Duke said its PhD program in computational biology and bioinformatics, which was founded at IGSP, will continue to be led by Professor Alexander Hartemink.

"Today, genomics impacts everything from comparative studies of primate evolution, to the diagnosis of infection before symptoms have appeared, to the discovery of new genetic disorders in individual patients. New programs emerging from the success of IGSP will define a next generation of genome science and its applications," said Nancy Andrews, dean of the medical school.

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