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Salk Lands $42M Grant to Launch Genomic Medicine Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Salk Institute for Biological Studies said today that it plans to use a $42 million donation to create a new center that will focus on genome-based research into a range of human diseases.

The gift from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will be used to establish the Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine (HCGM), which will engage in interdisciplinary research into cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and other illnesses.

The research teams at the HCGM will include scientists representing an array of disciplines, such as genomics, cancer biology, stem cell biology, metabolism, and endocrinology research.

The center aims to make discoveries about the common genomic basis for chronic conditions and study how genomic networks control stem cell development with the aim of finding new targets for potential therapeutics and manipulating stem cells for research purposes. The HCGM also will look into the impact that diseases can have on the human epigenome with the goal of finding out why some patients with similar genetic profiles have different responses to certain treatments.

"Chronic illness leads to distinctive changes at the genetic level and this gives us a new way to approach diagnosis and treatment," Ronald Evans, a professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory, said in a statement.

"HCGM will allow experts in cellular genetics and genomics to team up and seek out common molecular signatures of disease. Chronic diseases are complex, and to understand them you need to blend science, medicine, and new advances in drug discovery by approaching them from different angles," Evans said.

"The scientific collaborations fostered by HCGM will far exceed the efforts of any individual participating laboratory," Salk scientist Inder Verma, who also will serve as project leader of the partnership between Salk and the Helmsley Charitable Trust, added. "The state-of-the-art core facilities made possible by this grant will offer access to technology and support that no researcher could get on their own."

This new funding is not the first investment the Helmsley Trust has made in the Salk. In 2009 it awarded the institute $5.5 million to found the Salk Center for Nutritional Genomics, and in 2010 it donated $15 million to fund a stem cell research collaboration between Salk and Columbia University.