Tom Hudson, director of the Montreal Genome Centre since 1996 and former assistant director of the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genomic Research from 1996 to 2001, did not move back to his native Quebec to be closer to the ski hills (though perhaps that was an added incentive).
The main reason, he says, was the growth of the genome center, which is scheduled to move into its new 100,000-square-foot facility on the downtown McGill University campus this month. The weekly commute between Montreal and Boston had taken its toll.
“It was two jobs,” explains Hudson, 41, a genome scientist and clinical immunologist who still sees asthma patients. “What I had at MIT, of course, was access to the large-scale genome technology and teams. And what I was growing here was a genome center, which was more applied to human disease.”
Hudson first went to MIT to do his post-doc with David Housman at the Center for Cancer Research and stayed to collaborate on projects such as a physical map of the human genome based on STS sequences, and the RH map of the mouse genome.
The MGC will be a centralized hub with the core platforms for use by both McGill researchers and those at other institutions in the Québec province. It will eventually house genotyping, chip, and sequencing facilities for up to 200 researchers.
“I think we’ve reproduced the Whitehead genome center concept,” says Hudson of the multidisciplinary staff and large teams that will operate the center.
Research at the MGC is fueled by a C$170 million investment from Genome Canada and Genome Québec, which helped the center acquire technology and infrastructure. The money also helped fund 18 large-scale projects at other Québec research institutions.
Funding for genomics research in Canada has increased in recent years. “Certainly the confidence is there that Canada can be competitive in this field,” Hudson says. He cites the improved Canadian economy and successful models of genomics companies in the UK and US as other reasons for increased spending.
The MGC will focus on genotyping complex diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. Scientists will also participate in the effort to generate a haplotype map and were the first group to have their funding from Genome Québec and Genome Canada confirmed for this project, which was spearheaded by NIH. Developing low-cost, high-throughput genotyping assays is another goal of the MGC.
Results of their work, Hudson hopes, will be obvious in the next few years, and will mark the MGC as a “player in international genome projects.”
— Dana Frisch