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Washington U. Genome Institute Cuts 54 Staffers as Sequencing Funding Flags

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Washington University in St. Louis said today that its Genome Institute has laid off 54 employees in response to reductions in funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute for its large-scale sequencing program.

WUSTL said the layoffs, which will take effect in November, will cut its staff of 327 by around 17 percent and will affect employees in most areas of the institute, including analysis, assembly, production, informatics, and administration.

While the Genome Institute's staff size has fluctuated over the years, this reduction marks the largest number of employees to be affected at one time. NHGRI funding accounts for around 60 percent of the institute's annual budget, the institute noted.

The institute said it has learned that its funding from NHGRI will be cut from $37.6 million to around $28 million, about 23 percent, for the upcoming annual grant cycle. The current cycle stops on Oct. 31.

The cuts did not come from out of the blue, as NHGRI is in the process of shifting some of its funding schemes and resources to include new smaller centers and focus on Mendelian diseases, exploratory clinical sequencing, and sequence analysis software.

Washington University said it expects that all three of NHGRI's large-scale sequencing centers, which also includes the Broad Institute and Baylor College of Medicine, are likely to see reductions in NHGRI support and that its cuts will not be disproportionate.

The Broad Institute and Baylor were not immediately able to divulge their expected NHGRI large-scale sequencing funding for the upcoming cycle, but a spokesperson for Baylor told GenomeWeb Daily News today that it expects "changes in some areas of funding, however, we do not expect a major impact on the BCM Center."

Under its restructuring programs, NHGRI has budgeted around $90 million for per year for the three Genome Sequencing and Analysis Centers, $10 million per year for two Mendelian Disorders Genome Centers, and $5.5 million per year for as many as six projects to investigate ways to apply genomic sequencing in clinical care for individual patients.