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Princeton Fetes New Institute for Integrative Genomics

NEW YORK, May 9 -- Princeton University is beginning the building of its future in genomics with, literally, a building.


The Ivy League school yesterday cut two ribbons to officially unveil the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, and the companion Carl Icahn Laboratory, all located within a 90,000 square foot elliptical building sheathed by a glass atrium on the south end of the campus.


Many of the leading universities across the country these days look more like construction sites with high-tech buildings going up to house new facilities for research into biotechnology fields such as genomics, a vestigial tail wag that follows the tech-fueled economic boom times of the 1990s.


The ceremonies yesterday, continuing with a series of lectures and festivities today, also served as an installation of sorts for David Botstein, who will officially begin his tenure as director of the institute at Princeton in July.


Shirley Tilghman, a molecular biologist and the founder of the institute who is now the president of the university, told GenomeWeb that the $45 million facility is part of a genomics investment that will range from $80 million to $100 million when complete.


"It's much smaller," than Cornell University's $500 million biotechnology initiative, she said.


However, the crown jewel of this "small" investment may well be Botstein, who pioneered the use of RFLPs to produce gene linkage maps, and led efforts to map and sequence the yeast genome. He also sat on the Human Genome project's advisory council.


The negotiations to hire Botstein were really easy, Tilghman said.


"He loves to teach," she said.


The vision of the institute, aside from fostering a multi-disciplinary research community, is to create new methods in undergraduate education in genomics. As part of that initiative, Botstein gave a 1-hour lecture on the history of genomics to more than 100 people in auditorium classroom.


With the majority of the building completed, the school will next expand to 15 research groups from the five already in residence in the two-story building, which is really four stories high, with "hidden floors" housing the infrastructure needed to support clusters of modular laboratories.


"We have a significant recruiting endowment to attract young scientists at the junior level," Tilghman said.

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