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Harvard Receives $25M Gift for Genomics Center

NEW YORK, Dec 1 – Harvard University received a $25 million endowment this week for the building of a new 50,000-square-foot hi-tech home for its year-old Center for Genomic Research.

Charles Bauer, a 1942 Harvard grad and co-founder of AIM Management Group earlier this week announced the gift, which is one of the largest in Harvard’s history, according to Jeremy Knowles, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences.

Harvard expects that the center, which will be renamed the Bauer Center for Genomic Research, will be ready some time in early 2002. It will house robotics and instrumentation labs, wet and dry lab space, and an advanced computational infrastructure.

The current genomic center is housed in the molecular and cellular biology department and focuses on small molecule, protein, and antibody microarrays.

The center allows groups of labs that wish to make microarrays from the same organism to take advantage of its equipment, as well as its staff.

The equipment includes three arrayers, a BioRobotics MicroGrid II, a GMS 417, and an in-house developed instrument, two scanners, an Axon GenePix 4000A and an Applied Precision ArrayWorx, and a couple of bioinformatics tools, including Rosetta Resolver and GeneSpring.

For those who prefer commercial grade arrays, the center also distributes Affymetrix GeneChips to academics at a discount. Harvard researchers can access Incyte’s microarray services through the center.

In exchange for its services, the center keeps one-third of the slides printed in its facility, which it then sells to other researchers on a cost-recovery basis. They also insist that researchers who use the center’s microarrays agree to share all resulting profile information through a public database.

But Andrew Murray, the center’s recently appointed director says the ultimate goals are much more ambitious than expression profiling. According to the center’s website, he hopes to try to change evolution by applying selective pressures in order to “address the major questions of how living organisms work.”

The center uses its microarrays for this research, called the genetic diversity project, which for now attempts to understand how one genotype can give rise to multiple phenotypes in different populations. So far, the project has examined diversity within populations of budding yeast isolated from wine fermentations and plans to move up the evolutionary chain to insects in the near future.

In the future the Bauer Center plans to tackle protein structure and function, biological networks, and chemical genetics. The development of databases and improved tools for finding protein homology are also in the plans.

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