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Lilly Endowment Awards $105 Million Grant to IU Genomics Initiative

NEW YORK, Dec 15 – The Lilly Endowment has awarded a $105 million grant, its largest single gift ever, to Indiana University’s Genomics Initiative, the university said Friday.

The initiative will build on existing resources at the IU School of Medicine and will expand the university’s supercomputer system. There are no plans to build a dedicated facility to house the initiative, although the university plans to expand and renovate some existing research facilities.

The grant will be implemented over a three-year period, and will generate an additional $243 million in research grants, according to the School of Medicine’s projections. The school currently holds $130 million in research funding.

The university expects the initiative to create 500 basic genomics jobs: 74 within the university, 127 in private sector biotechnology firms, and approximately 300 others throughout the state.

There are six key components of the initiative: genomics, bioinformatics, bioethics, education, training, and medical informatics. In addition, the IU Advanced Research and Technology Institute will provide technology transfer assistance, including access to seed and venture capital, workforce enhancement, creation of biomedical companies, and licensing to commercial partners.

Among the initiative’s top priorities is the appointment of a project director, IU spokesman Joe Stuteville said. The university is looking for a candidate with “the grasp and vision to lead on the academic side and also translate the research that we undertake to the commercial realm,” Stuteville told GenomeWeb.

Stuteville said the university had not yet selected any candidates for the position.

Karen Adams, a spokeswoman for the university, said that the initiative would provide key enhancements to IU’s research and academic computing resources. Plans include increasing the power of the supercomputer system by a factor of two to three and increasing connectivity to the Internet2, a network that joins 180 universities, as well as other high-speed computing networks. The university’s 3-D visualization laboratories will also be enhanced for imaging related to genomic research, Adams said.

First-year goals include the appointment of a scientific director and other staff and finalizing of a system by which investigators can apply for funds, establish a training program for research coordinators, and develop clinical protocols.

The university expects to begin gathering and entering data on phenotypes by the second year of the program. In the third year, it plans to begin collecting and extracting DNA and to begin analyses to examine the function of newly discovered genetic mutations.

“We’ll be embarking on the kind of basic science and genetic research that will be ahead of the curve,” Stuteville said. “Medical researchers will be looking to this effort as a means of taking the translation of the genome project a step further.”
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