By Monica Heger
This story was originally published Nov. 4.
Last week, a consortium of 11 research institutes announced plans for the formation of the New York Genome Center, which is slated to open in the spring of 2012.
The nonprofit center will focus on sequencing and bioinformatics for research and clinical purposes, but will also offer educational and training programs in genomics and will have a philanthropic unit.
The center's sequencing capabilities will be split between a gene sequencing center that will include a CLIA-certified lab, and an "Innovation Center" that will focus on emerging sequencing technologies.
NYGC's location has yet to be determined, but organizers said it will be in an existing building within New York City. The center aims to raise $125 million in investment commitments from private and public sources and has raised a "substantial portion" of that amount so far.
"Without capabilities in large-scale gene sequencing and bioinformatics … [New York City] will fall behind" other US regions with strong life science economies, said founding executive director Nancy Kelley at NYGC's launch event in New York this week.
Eleven institutions — Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Columbia University, Cornell University/Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York University/NYU School of Medicine, North Shore-LIJ Health System, the Jackson Laboratory, Rockefeller University, and Stony Brook University — make up the center's founding members. The Hospital for Special Surgery is an associate founding member.
Roche and Illumina are the first two corporate partners, and Illumina has agreed to outfit the gene sequencing center with an undisclosed number of machines. NYGC plans to add pharmaceutical and genomics corporate partners as it becomes operational.
The goal of NYGC's Innovation Center will be to test next-gen sequencing technologies that are new to the market, which could include the Pacific Biosciences RS, the Ion Torrent PGM, and the Illumina MiSeq, Kelley told In Sequence.
The Innovation Center will also include technologies that are "not quite ready for prime time" but that are still interesting, "such as the technology being explored by Oxford Nanopore," Kelley said.
Oxford Nanopore's chief technology officer Clive Brown told In Sequence via e-mail that the company is "looking forward to working with the Innovation Center," but declined to comment further.
There will also be a path for moving instruments from the Innovation Center into the sequencing center and potentially the CLIA lab, once the platforms have been validated, Kelly added.
Several vendors have already begun reaching out to NYGC for inclusion in the Innovation Center, said Kelley, and NYGC has in turn contacted companies with technologies of interest.
In order to be included in the Innovation Center, Kelley said, the company is invited to make a presentation to NYGC's scientific groups, which will then decide whether to include the technology in the center and devise a strategy to implement it.
Kelley said that the organizers have so far secured one partner whose technology will be included in the Innovation Center, but would not disclose the manufacturer. "We're just moving forward with the first company," she said, and "doing testing on their technology."
Gene Sequencing Center
Aside from the Innovation Center, NYGC will also include a production sequencing center, where "the main workhorse" will be Illumina machines, Kelley said. The center is considering other sequencing instruments, but has not made any final decisions.
Within the gene sequencing center will be a CLIA-certified laboratory, which will "not be exclusively Illumina, although that will be the majority of the technology," Kelley said.
Illumina, who is one of the center's corporate partners, will also provide expertise and technical support as the center pursues CLIA certification, CEO Jay Flatley said at the NYGC launch event.
The sequencing center will include both clinical- and research-oriented projects, Kelley said. Sequencing projects within the CLIA lab will initially include sequencing experiments as part of clinical trials, but will eventually move into patient testing and diagnostics.
"These are details that we'll work out with our pharmaceutical partners … as we move forward and become operational," Kelley said.
The center will also discuss reimbursement strategies as it moves into patient care and testing, she said.
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