Empire Genomics Partner in New York Genome Center-University at Buffalo Project

2014-07-28 13:49:23

Two new grants help to bring UB genome project into focus

Author: Dan Miner | BuffaloRising

Date: July 28, 2014

Details are coming into focus regarding the New York Genome Center-University at Buffalo partnership, as the state recently approved two grants totaling $47.5 million for the Buffalo end of the project.

On top of that money, UB is pledging $15 million in matching funds for one of the Empire State Development Corp. grants, money that will be spent over five years to offset operational costs.

Four project partners -- Aesku.Diagnostics, Computer Task Group, Empire Genomics and Lineagen Inc. -- have pledged initial investments that total $7.5 million in operational costs.

And the state is currently negotiating with Roswell Park Cancer Institute, another partner, on what will likely be a $2.5 million capital infrastructure grant to become part of the project, said Christina Orsi, ESD regional director.

In all, that represents $72.5 million in identified funds for the high-profile project, one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s numerous Buffalo Billion outlays that have been unveiled over the past two years. It is expected to be completed by December 2018.

The money will be spent in a variety of ways, including the purchase of equipment that will increase the computing capacity of UB’s Center for Computational Research from roughly a half-terabyte to 2.5 terabytes. That capacity is central to the project, which will involve high-speed genomic sequencing of data provided by the Manhattan-based Genome Center. A total of 490 private sector jobs are expected to be created in Buffalo.

"In addition to the (currently identified funds), there will be spinoffs," said Thomas Furlani, CCR director. "UB will realize additional grants, and there will be a substantial increase in research funding as people are hired to work on the grants."

Each of the private companies will run its own projects based on the advanced ability to detect genomic markers of a specific disease, and thus develop tests and treatments. They’re also eligible for state incentives such as the Start-Up NY tax breaks program, into which Aeksu and Lineagen have already been accepted.

"Building out our ability to take large-scale sequencing data will allow us to sift through that data and create assays that companies like Empire and Lineage will use to build the suite they’re putting out there," said Norma Nowak, founder and chief scientific officer of Empire Genomics and a professor in UB’s School of Medicine and BioMedical Sciences.

The New York Genome Center, meanwhile, recently received approval for $57.25 million in state funding to build out its side of the project, a 168,000-square-foot genomic research center at 101 Avenue of Americas in Manhattan. The total project is expected to cost $158.5 million -- with the Genome Center pledging $102.25 million. That includes $58 million in construction/renovation costs and $55.75 million in project costs related to genetic sequencing, research and development and other operational needs.

The facility will include “premier space to accommodate genomic support services, training facility, research labs and lab support and office space for staff and visiting researchers,” according to ESD documents.

The Genome Center facility is expected to be complete by December 2015 and create at least 500 new jobs in New York City.

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