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New GW Neuroscience Institute Plans Biomarker Core, Faculty Hires

This report was originally published July 22 and updated to include additional information from a George Washington University Medical Center spokeswoman about the institute's faculty recruitment effort.

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – George Washington University has established a new Institute for Neuroscience designed to accelerate multidisciplinary research on the human brain across GW schools, as well as create a new core facility in the field.

Initial goals for the institute, according to the university, include launching a new Biomarkers Discovery and Analysis Core, and serving as a single base for research by faculty, postdocs, and students at the school's Foggy Bottom campus and GW's partner in clinical and translational research, the Children's National Medical Center.

"The core will offer high-throughput quantitative PCR as well as relevant cDNA libraries, facilities for plate-based cell signaling assays, facilities for in vitro electroporation of DNA constructs and primary culture, mouse [embryonic stem] cell lines for in vitro differentiation, and an in situ hybridization service that offers standard brain sections for expression surveys, as well as a library of over 300 cloned probe templates, custom probe template construction and probe synthesis," according to a GW statement.

The core will be fully operational by September, a George Washington University Medical Center spokeswoman, Melissa Kadish, told GenomeWeb Daily News.

"Detailed information on services, consultation, user fees (greatly discounted for institute members), and requests for services will be made available on the Institute website, which is currently being completed and should be launched by the end of the month," Kadish said.

Other goals for the institute, according to the university, include recruiting four faculty members, sponsoring a neuroscience seminar series featuring "prominent national" speakers; developing a new graduate-level course focusing on the neurobiology of developmental disorders; and creating a new website that will present members' research interests, as well as "events of interest to the neuroscience community."

The new faculty members will be recruited in two rounds. Two positions are scheduled to be advertised at month's end: One in the medical school's Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, the other in the Biology Department.

"We will seek two investigators interested in synapse and circuit development" to fill those positions, Kadish said. "One position will be for an investigator working on cortical circuit development in the mouse, and the other for an investigator using model genetic systems Drosophila, C. elegans, zebrafish, to understand CNS synapse assembly."

In 2011, the next two faculty members will be recruited: One more person in pharmacology and physiology, and the other in psychology.

"The pharm/phys position will be for someone working at the interface of human disease genetics and animal models of cellular pathology in neurodevelopmental disorders," Kadish said.

The other position, she added, will be filled by someone working on the interface of circuit development and behavior, preferably in the mouse.

The institute now has 24 faculty members whose research interests include behavioral, evolutionary, systems, cellular, and developmental neuroscience. Support for the institute's programs comes jointly from GW's School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Anthony-Samuel LaMantia has been named founding director of the new institute, which will be based at the school of medicine. LaMantia is a neuroscientist previously with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was also a professor with the UNC School of Medicine's Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology.

LaMantia will also hold a faculty position at GW, as professor of pharmacology and physiology.

"I look forward to helping bring together new colleagues and diverse perspectives to address fundamental questions about the brain, how it develops, and how it works," LaMantia said in the statement.

LaMantia recently joined with colleagues to identify the stem cells that generate three critical classes of nerve cells responsible for enabling animals and humans, to eat, interact socially, and reproduce. The research has been published in the journal Development.

Just last week, GW's medical center and the CNMC won a $20 million, five-year Clinical and Translational Science Award from the NIH's National Center for Research Resources.

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