Genomic research center brings industry and academia together

In 2004, a group of researchers – some from academia, others from industry – took stock of the future of genetic research. The Human Genome Project had been completed the year prior, and at the time they communicated their thoughts to the journal Genome Research, roughly 200 species already had their complete genomes sequenced, with another chiliad still under investigation in laboratories across the country.

The group knew that mapping out the chemical alphabet of life was only the first step. The implications of the genetic code, like its role in disease, would only be resolved by opening up the scientific process – sharing datasets and encouraging multidisciplinary research teams. And success, they argued, would inevitably require a close collaboration between the industrial and academic powers.

Today, news broke that Eric Shadt, Chief Scientist at Pacific Biosciences – a corporate leader in next-generation genetic sequencing – will direct a new genomics research center at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. In doing so, Shadt will help bridge the divide that researchers at both institutions often face. The medical school will gain premier access to Pacific Biosciences’ state-of-the-art technology, while the company will get hold of an abundance of genetic samples from patients in the clinic, streamlined by Mt. Sinai’s electronic medical record system.

While drug development companies have successfully partnered with academic labs in the past (most often to license intellectual property like new potential drugs), the partnerships have historically been fraught with legal parley and institutional red-tape. But since Shadt will directly broker the alliance by also retaining a part-time role at Pacific Bioscience (25% of his time), the two organization may be able to bypass some of the usual reluctance.

Photo via Flickr

Brian Mossop is currently the Community Editor at Wired, where he works across the brand, both magazine and website, to build and maintain strong social communities. Brian received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lafayette College, and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University in 2006. His postdoctoral work was in neuroscience at UCSF and Genentech.

Brian has written about science for Wired, Scientific American, Slate, Scientific American MIND, and elsewhere. He primarily cover topics on neuroscience, development, behavior change, and health.

Contact Brian at, on Twitter (@bmossop), or visit his personal website.