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New Boston Genomics Center Brings Tiny Science to the Big Screen

NEW YORK, May 3 - As gene chips, microfluidics, and robotic instruments get tinier and tinier, Boston's medical elite have a scheme to make these microtechnologies big enough to fill a room.


Or a massive IMAX movie house, to be specific.


The big flick is part of a new genetics research center now being built by Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.


The new $50 million Harvard-Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics, directed by Bruce Korf and Raju Kucherlapati, will combine clinical, research, and education projects.


Korf said that they plan to recruit between 15 and 20 lab heads, ultimately bringing on roughly 475 new researchers and staff. These investigators will conduct basic and applied research into common diseases like cardiovascular disease, neurogenetic disorders, cancer, and psychiatric illness.


Recruiting is just now getting underway, said Korf, but some of the center's core facilities are already up and running. So far this spring, they've opened a new sequencing facility and a genotyping lab outfitted with a Sequenom MALDI-TOF machine for SNP analysis. A microarray center is slated to be processing fly and human arrays by mid-summer.


"There's a tremendous demand in the [clinical research] community for these resources," said Korf. Ultimately, the center will also offer proteomics capabilities and blood and DNA banking.


Partners has already committed seed money to the project, which will be housed in 100,000-square-feet of office and lab space at Mass General and the medical school.


The new genome center's aims include conducting research, providing Harvard Medical School and its partner hospitals with genetic services and new clinical tools, and promoting both technical and general education about genomics.


And as part of that education drive, the center's backers are planning to work with an IMAX director to create a giant-sized movie chronicling the triumphs of genomic science.


"The concept is to get the public excited by and informed about the medical implications [of genome science]," said Korf, who added that Partners researchers are "heavily involved" in the creative process behind the film. "We see this as a way to reach people. It'll give them a flavor for the excitement of the opportunity."

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