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UPDATE: University of Cincinnati Launches Genome Research Institute

NEW YORK, April. 23 –The University of Cincinnati may soon have the biggest genomics center in the U.S. 

The university is developing a Genome Institute, in a 360,000 square-foot facility that used to be the Reading, Ohio campus of Aventis pharmaceuticals. Aventis donated this sprawling pharmaceutical facility to UC in February, and the University immediately began plans to renovate it and turn it into an academic research facility, according to  David Millhorn, chairman of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at the UC College of Medicine

Millhorn, who will serve as the Institute’s director, said the Institute would distinguish itself from the other genome centers springing up around the world by focusing in on the hard-core biology in genomics rather than the high-tech applications. “We’re not going to be so much interested in the technology itself as in using the technology to solve complex biological problems,” he said.

According to Millhorn, the researchers at the Institute will focus on applying genomics to four key medical areas in which the University has existing research strengths: cardiovascular disease; endocrinology and metabolism; cancer, and neuroscience. The center’s primary goal will be “to understand some of these complex physiological traits and to understand the gene patterns that are mediating these processes.”

Millhorn studies the genomic and molecular survival mechanisms that operate under low oxygen conditions or hypoxia. His lab, which has already received funding from the National Institutes of Health and designated as a genome center, will be the first to move to the new Genome Center when the renovations on the Aventis facility are complete in six to nine months. University scientists who do high throughput genomic research will go to the facility, and the university will also recruit outside scientists.

“We’re going to go after more senior people with established programs,” said Millhorn. “It would be great to [hire] a more senior person with an established program in diabetes, for example.”

The university has pledged to spend $30 to $35 million to renovate the Aventis facility and recruit approximately ten new researchers, Millhorn said. The existing genome center already has a 3700 sequencer and other equipment, but at the new location will expand its proteomics facility as well as its mouse phenotyping facility, which is already one of the largest in the country. UC researchers have been collaborating with Millennium pharmaceuticals on mouse phenotyping projects.

Millhorn would like the Institute to form additional partnerships with private companies, and is currently discussing collaborations with local pharmaceutical companies, which he declined to name.

“I would like to see us have a very tight partnership with the private sector,” said Millhorn. “I would also like to see several biotechnology companies given birth in this institute.”

This University is launching this Institute as part of its plan to double outside funding for biomedical research, and add 260 researchers and staffs by the year 2006.  The University expects this plan to help fuel the development of biotechnology in Ohio over the next several years.

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