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New Hawaii Med School Facility Opts for ABI DNA, Taqman, Expression Array Platforms

Honolulu — The gene-expression lab in the new science facility at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine will use Applied Biosystems’ Expression Analysis microarray platform, in a decision reached after the school’s research faculty evaluated rival technologies.

“They seemed interested in collaboration and working with us,” Richard Lairton, an assistant professor of medicine at the school, told BioCommerce Week. “We wanted a partnership and they seemed interested in research and supporting their platform with bioinformatics.”

He said the school also considered purchasing Affymetrix's gene-expression platform, but the microarray leader seemed a “little less willing to share with us,” he said.

The Expression Analysis platform is a relatively new product line for the microarray market. ABI does not provide details on how many units it has sold since it launched the product in April 2004.

Lairton, a nephrologist specializing in vascular disease and associated with the US Veteran's Administration in Hawaii, said the school's research program would also use ABI DNA sequencing technology, as well as Taqman chemistries, and Agilent's BioAnalyzer products.

Lairton said that his VA association would provide access to patient data, and would enable the school to recruit clinical research subjects from its patient populations.

Earlier this month, the school unveiled its new medical facilities with a two-day conference with keynotes by Nobel laureates David Baltimore, who is the president of the California Institute of Technology, and Michael Bishop, who is the chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco. Other speakers included Julie Gerberding, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Irving Weissman, director of the Institute for Cancer and Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at Stanford University; and Stephen O'Brien, chief of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institute.

The medical school will be housed in a two-building complex overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Honolulu waterfront. It is funded by a University of Hawaii bond issue secured by a $150 million commitment of funds from the state's proceeds from tobacco industry's settlement. The 112,000-square-foot education building will open in the spring, while the 216,000-square-foot science facility is scheduled to open in September. The 10-acre campus has room for another 216,000-square foot research facility, which is in the planning stages.

The school added seven faculty members last year with 12 expected to be added in 2005 and 2006. School researchers have a total of $61 million in federal grants.

Creating new research facilities at a time when discovery and clinical research are converging is reflected in how architects approach their work. Facilities will have to be flexible to accommodate new tools that are increasingly portable, said Angela Kimble of the firm Earl Walls Associates, which designed the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif. In new facilities, instrument makers are intimately involved in the design process, but, she said, need to gain new skills.

“They need to be part of a collaborative team,” she said. “They all tell you that they listen, but usually they are so busy pitching their products, they never listen.”

The Walls firm participated in the design of the new cancer research facility at UCSD which opens in February [see Q&A, page 6].

— Mo Krochmal ([email protected])

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