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Iowa Clinical Genetics Institute Plan Gets Green Light

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A University of Iowa plan to create a genomics-based research and clinical medicine institute at its Carver College of Medicine was approved Friday by the state's Board of Regents, which governs the state's public universities, a University spokesman told GenomeWeb Daily News on Friday.

Funded with $5 million from the Helen Johnson Endowment, the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics will integrate the university's high-throughput genetic analysis resources and expertise with clinical capabilities at the Carver College to engage in multidisciplinary studies and to treat patients using genetics-based medicine.

The IIHG will house the talent and resources to coordinate large-scale gene discovery, gene-based clinical diagnostics studies, and clinical pharmacogenomics research projects, according to the proposal for the institute.

The university expects that the IIHG will generate enough revenues from clinical and lab activities, including whole-exome sequencing services, to be self-sufficient and cover its expenses by its sixth year of operation, according to the plan.

The university estimates that the institute's operating expenses next year will be around $3.1 million, and that its expenses will rise to round $4.3 million by 2017.

In 2017, the university expects IIHG to generate around $2.7 million in revenue from DNA and bioinformatics services, around $900,000 from clinical revenue, and around $263,000 from grants and institutional support.

It will provide genetic core facilities to University of Iowa investigators, promote intra-institutional collaborations between clinicians and basic research scientists, and provide seed grants for human genetics-based research focused on personalized genomic medicine.

The range of activities the IIHG will provide include individual genome-based clinical evaluations and consultations; genetic testing for a variety of diseases using targeted genome capture and massively parallel sequencing; management of common and rare congenital and inherited disorders; and clinical research collaborations focused on human genetics.

IIHG's initial efforts aimed at rare disease research will focus on development of a clinical genetics diagnostics platform that uses targeted sequence capture and sequencing to study genes involved in renal diseases. This platform will be expanded in the future to target other areas, such as cancer, diabetes, and neurological diseases.

The institute's initial drug therapy studies will focus on a pharmacogenetics-based platform to optimize favorable drug-patient outcomes.

The IIHG also will provide whole-exome sequencing services to select patients to support treatment and health management decisions.

The university will initially house the institute in its DNA Sequencing Core space. The plan does not call for the purchase of any new equipment, although the need for more tools and technologies could change in the future depending on the institute's volume of contracted services and its revenue.

The university expects that most of the IIHG's 24-member staff, including 10 DNA employees and around nine clinical employees, will be drawn from its current roster, and that most of its estimated 5 bioinformatics employees will be hired in the future.