By Walter Sullivan,2015-01-06 08:50
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    Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of Oregon


    Contacts: Patrick Phillips and Michelle Wood, Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (, 346-0916;, 346-4797)

    Bruce Bowerman, Institute for Molecular Biology,, 346-0853


    The widespread use of genomic approaches has been the most important development in the life sciences over the last decade. We are currently experiencing a fundamental shift in the way this research is conducted. We are entering the age of individual genomics, in which the whole genomes of single individuals can be reconstructed at the cost of a few thousand dollars. This is revolutionizing the way that genetic research is conducted, but also promises to expand the reach of genetics into society as a whole, especially within the health care industry. These new technologies are rapidly changing how standard genetic research is conducted in evolutionary biology, ecology, neurobiology, developmental biology, and molecular and cell biology, as well as larger scale projects such as genetic association studies in humans. Because of the broad applicability of this technology across all of the life sciences, genomics provides an obvious nexus around which to orient integrated science efforts.

    The University of Oregon has an international reputation and storied history in molecular biology and genetics. Recent hires, particularly in the Institute of Molecular Biology, the Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Computer Science, and the Institute of Neuroscience are keeping this tradition aliveestablishing an international reputation of their own. This places the University in an ideal position to capitalize on our history and the unfolding opportunities in genomic research. To fully capitalize on our potential in train strengths in these areas, to provide the necessary training to our students, and to help support the research infrastructure of the State, the UO needs to keep pace with technological developments and expand our genomics and bioinformatics capacity. This requires both the acquisition of new equipment and the facilities to utilize and house the equipment.

    The area of bioinformatics in general and computational genomics in particular is one of the fastest growing areas in all of science. Added capacity to obtain genomic information requires expanded capacity for analysis and has opened many new avenues of research in computational biology. If the University is to keep pace with this growth, new computational capacity needs to be added relatively soon, and additional intellectual strength in the area of bioinformatics is an important new area for expansion. Added faculty in the area of bioinformatics will facilitate the emerging integration of genomics into nearly all areas of the life sciences and much of the environmental sciences.

    Despite little previous organized efforts along these lines, the UO is actually in a strong position to build strength in this area by catalyzing existing efforts into a new program. Faculty within the Institute of Molecular Biology, Institute of Neuroscience, Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Computer Science have expertise in comparative genomics, and most of the recent hires within the biology department have genomics as part of their research effort. The potential


    to further foster interdisciplinary interactions among these groups will enable the University to add to existing areas of strength while also building upon these strengths to allow the emergence of a new area of excellence. The current genomics efforts within the University will not reach their full potential without strong computational support. Viewed as part of a broader informatics effort within the University, there is vast potential here to increase our footprint in research, education, training, and translational efforts.


    As described more fully below, we propose that the University proceed to meet the

    challenge of the genomic revolution by a three-phase approach to space and

    facilities. We suggest that additional planning for new faculty hires and/or

    relocation of current faculty should be pursued in parallel with planning for space

    and instrumentation.

    PHASE 1 Immediate acquisition of essential instrumentation and renovation of

    space in existing buildings to house this equipment.

    PHASE 2 (2012)

    A. Co-location of all genomics facilities (new high throughput sequencers, current

    sequencing facility, and microarray facility) in a single location with added

    instructional space for use in summer courses and by graduate students working

    in genomics.

    B. Installation of new computer cluster for bioinformatics research with office

    space for research staff.

    PHASE 3 (2012 and beyond) Creation of multidisciplinary center in

    bioinformatics and genomics with flexible, joint research space that would allow

    interaction in innovative ways.

University Priorities

    Genomic and bioinformatics facilities and research support is inherently interdisciplinary. Its role spans the understanding the genetic basis of behavior and cognition from the standpoint of BBMI to the biological effects of nanoparticles in ONAMI. Success and innovation in these areas is critical to maintaining the roughly $20 million annual research funding obtained directly in the areas of neurobiology, development, molecular genetics, and evolutionary biology. Because all of these fields use the common currency of DNA, shared facilities, major instrumentation, and increased IT infrastructure will benefit dozens of programs across the campus. Ultimately providing a single shared space for all genomic and bioinformatics resources on campus provides for an economy of maintenance of supervision, while freeing up existing space for more specialized research and teaching needs. Finally, we have the opportunity to expand research training and industrial outreach by creating a local center of excellence in biotechnology that has the potential to help support a growing biotechnology infrastructure within the State and beyond.


Addressing the Need

    The needs in this area are immediate and the University is already sliding in its competitive edge relative to other institutions. We therefore propose to address the needs of genomic and bioinformatics resources on campus along three time horizons: immediate, intermediate term, and long term.

; Phase I Immediate Needs

    Equipment: Recent dramatic changes in genomic technology demand that the University respond with major equipment acquisitions, particularly in the area of high throughput DNA sequencing and computing infrastructure. Grant efforts are underway with the Keck Foundation, the NSF, and the NIH. Additional funding opportunities are being sought with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and local research initiatives. A major new training initiative is also being created with the Engineering and Technology Investment Council (ETIC), which may provide core equipment for the new program.

    Facilities: The equipment should be able to be temporarily housed within facilities provided by either the Institute for Molecular Biology or the Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. This will require support for renovation, which has been requested by both units as part of the recent building and renovation request process. Existing genomic resources are spread across five to six different areas on campus.

    ; Phase II Co-localization within ISC-2

    In order to achieve the University goal of shared facilities for core equipment and to take best advantages of supervision by technical staff and centralized local for student training and industrial outreach, all genomic technology and facilities should be co-localized into a single location. The ISC-2 is an ideal site because of the central role of genomics in the missions of the groups involved in the new building, the proximity of the space to other institutes needing the facilities, and the utility of using new construction to meet the needs of technology and computing infrastructure needed in such a facility. Such a central facility would be based on three major components. First, a ―wet lab‖ will house the central genomic equipment, such as

    DNA sequencers, liquid handling robots, and microarray printers and readers. Second, a computational facility will house a server farm to be used for analyzing the 20 gigabytes a day of data that will be generated by the core facility. The computational facility will require office space for technical staff and programmers, and could be combined with other computational infrastructure within the ISC-2. Third, teaching and preparation space adjacent to the core facility will provide space for student training and sample preparation, especially as part of the ETIC supported summer training program. This classroom/lab space could be coordinated/shared with other ISC-2 users.

    ; Phase III Long term growth and innovation

    Addressing the needs outlined above will help to maintain the University at the current baseline and/or prevent significant decline in our research capability. True excellence in this vital area requires innovative new structures and expansion of existing facilities, as might be possible as


    part of ISC-3. Here, new flexible, joint research labs would allow students and faculty conducting research in areas utilizing genomic approaches to interact in innovative ways. Large shared laboratories provide flexibility for project-oriented multidisciplinary research and an economy of scale with shared core research facilities. Close proximity of scientists doing ―wet‖ research with computational scientists will increase the potential for novel research interactions, as well as providing a new model for student training within these disciplines. This will also provide support and expansion of this critical, but currently underserved discipline. Here, the vision to provide flexible shared lab space for six faculty in genomics and six faculty in bioinformatics/computational science/statistics.

Fit to Criteria for ISC-2 Planning

    This proposal is completely consistent with the ground rules and integrative science vision behind ISC-2 planning. As noted above, the effectiveness of a wide range of scientific disciplines on campus will benefit from the existence of a centrally located genomics laboratory. The consolidation of current genomics instrumentation laboratories with a newly equipped high throughput sequencing center will provide much more efficient use of technician time, and better opportunity for training. We see the assignment of space within ISC-2 as flexible, insofar as the space for genomics at UO needs to be responsive to the growth of this important new field and to developments in the technology. As we proceed with creation of a multidisciplinary center in bioinformatics, genomics, and proteomics, we envision shared laboratories and possible revisiting on the best location for instrumentation that supports these fields. In terms of the UO strategic plan, this proposal particularly addresses goals for increased interdisciplinary research and collaboration. It will improve existing collaboration among life scientists, enhance our capacity to respond to the SAGE initiative, and create more opportunities for collaborations that extend the potential of genomics and bioinformatics to key areas like nano-technology, sustainability, and human performance. We expect that biotechnology will continue to be a major growth industry in Oregon and the interdisciplinary training that this initiative will support meets SAGE goals and offers opportunity to support the biotechnology industry with trained personnel and collaborative research. Development of a centralized genomics facility allows us for the first time to explore providing industrial genomic characterization services and enhances our outreach profile to both industrial and local academic partners.


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