Carolina announces $245 million
public-private investment in genomics
University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill Chancellor James Moeser announced on February 22 a public-private
investment in a campuswide genome sciences initiative representing
at least $245 million over the next decade.
That commitment, which includes a $25 million
anonymous gift, also announced on February 22, places UNC-Chapel
Hill at the forefront of discovery in this rapidly emerging scientific
field, Moeser said.
"We aim to do our part in leading
this breathtaking revolution spurred by DNA and the book of life,"
he said. "Carolina will be a driving force in determining
how the genomics revolution will change the way in which we treat
human diseases, design drugs and grow crops."
University leaders, representing diverse
academic areas, are making strategic support of the UNC genome
sciences a top priority and are investing the resources necessary
to position UNC for leadership among major research universities,
"This is a campus that encourages
powerful and highly effective collaboration," he said. "At
a large, decentralized research institution, it is rare to find
this level of unwavering support for endeavors that cross so
Quick Progress in Building a Genomics
Equally strategic pursuit of state and
federal funding, coupled with strong support from N.C. taxpayers
and private donors, has further fortified such quick progress
in building its genomics program, Moeser added. A few examples
Four new buildings that will house genomics research are supported
in part by the historic bond referendum approved by N.C. voters
in fall 2000. The Medical Biomolecular Research Building, a $64-million
project, will receive $34 million in bond money and prior state
appropriations; the Science Complex, estimated to be a $400-million-plus
project, will receive $88 million in bond money toward its first
two phases; the Bioinformatics Building, a $30-million project,
will receive $2 million in bond money; and the Research and Teaching
Building, a $39-million project, will receive $13 million in
bond money. Portions of these buildings will be used for genomics
and related research.
Campuswide strategic support: The university has committed more than $50 million
in recurring funds for 40 new faculty positions associated with
genomics, through carefully considered reallocation of existing
funds or generation of new funds for this scientific initiative.
This support also includes start-up costs and laboratory equipment.
The Michael Hooker Center for Proteomics: Moeser announced an anonymous $25 million gift
to the School of Medicine that supports research in a promising
area of specialization in genetics that catalogs the proteins
expressed in cells -- crucial to the potential of the Human Genome
Project. Dr. Michael Hooker, UNC chancellor from 1995 until his
death in June 1999, was a strong advocate for science and technology
initiatives at UNC. In 1999, an anonymous gift created a $1 million
endowed professorship in biology with a focus in genomics to
New federal appropriation: Moeser announced that the N.C. Congressional
delegation, including Sen. Jesse Helms and Rep. David Price,
had secured a new $2.25 million appropriation under the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services budget (House Bill 12128)
and approved by Congress last December. The appropriation will
fund program and infrastructure support including laboratory
A Timely Initiative
Dr. Jeffrey Houpt, dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of
Medicine, said the genome sciences initiative is especially timely,
as scientists are making remarkable discoveries about the role
of proteins in unraveling the mysteries of DNA and the human
Genomics involves the study of the sequence
of DNA, which is the genetic material of living organisms. Knowledge
of genes and their role in human disease may ultimately prove
instrumental in cures for a wide variety of diseases. Internationally
renowned scientists, including Dr. Francis Collins, director
of the National Human Genome Research Institute and a UNC medical
school graduate, announced on Feb. 12 the first "map"
of the human genome.
"One of the major discoveries that
came out of this recent announcement was just how instrumental
the proteins are in the processes that keep the body healthy,
as well as the factors that result in disease," Houpt said.
"The fact that we already have received a $25 million gift
devoted solely to the study of proteins brings an added sense
of excitement to our genomics initiative."
UNC-Chapel Hill recruited Dr. Terry R. Magnuson from Case Western
Reserve University as founding chairman of the department of
genetics in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine in July 2000.
Magnuson, one of the world's most renowned scientists in mammalian
genetics, brought with him his entire 15-member laboratory group
and 10,000 mice for mouse genetics research.
In his first six months on the job, he
hired seven of the top assistant professors in the field, including
three from prestigious posts in England. He also organized the
campuswide center for genome sciences, called the Carolina Center
for Genome Sciences. Both the department of genetics and the
center are in the School of Medicine but extend to other parts
of the university.
The 40 new faculty members who will contribute to UNC's genomics
initiative represent the five health sciences schools, dentistry,
medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health, as well as the
College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Information and Library
Science and the School of Law. The College of Arts and Sciences
will create five of these posts during the next five years for
bioinformatics and genomics. The college will also contribute
An Investment in Patient Care, Disease
The UNC budget committee, the provost's strategic initiative
and other university sources have allocated $7.3 million this
year alone in start-up funds for genome sciences.
UNC received two prestigious grants in
1999, which added momentum to UNC's efforts to become a leader
in genomics research. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute gave
the School of Medicine $2.6 million, distributed over four years,
to develop and staff a new genetics center. And the National
Institutes of Health selected UNC as one of two Regional Mutant
Mouse Resource Centers in the nation, a grant of $5 million over
In addition, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center has invested
more than $400,000 in UNC's genomics initiatives, including funds
to help recruit Magnuson. Moeser said the university's efforts
will benefit the state's economy, as research finds application
in medical and business areas. And it will present opportunities
to collaborate on research with other state campuses.
North Carolina voters played an important
role in UNC's genomics "blueprint," approving November's
bond referendum allocating $3.1 billion to UNC campuses and N.C.
community colleges for repair, renovation and construction of
classrooms, laboratories and other buildings, he said. Carolina's
portion of the bond package is about $499 million.
"The people of North Carolina will
reap the benefits of their trust and investment, as UNC's genomics
research findings move from laboratories and ultimately translate
into greater effectiveness in patient care and disease treatment,"
Four planned buildings that will be affiliated
with genomics research are supported by a combination of bond
money, prior state appropriations and campus sources including
- The Medical Biomolecular Research Building, now under construction,
will house the UNC department of genetics and the newly created
Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. The center will complement
existing research strengths at UNC in the study of mouse models
of diseases, genetics of model organisms, cancer research and
- The Bioinformatics Building, scheduled to begin construction
soon, will house research and office space. Bioinformatics is
a field that combines fields such as computer science, information
and library sciences, and biology and other hard sciences to
analyze the mass of data generated by the Human Genome Project.
- The Science Complex, a five-phase project, will include basic
science departments. Portions of the complex will feature interdisciplinary
scholarly activities related to genomics research. Undergraduate
classrooms, teaching and research laboratories and a science
theater will all be a part of the complex, whose construction
date is scheduled to begin April 2003.
- The Research and Teaching Building, which is scheduled to begin
construction later this year, is an addition to the School of
Public Health. Research, classrooms and offices will be located
in this addition.
Houpt said genomics will transform the field of modern medicine,
and that the presence of one of the nation's top teaching hospitals,
UNC Hospitals, on campus will enhance opportunities for collaboration
to take research findings from the laboratory to the clinical
setting -- and, ultimately, to patients.
Collaboration and Training for the Future
Magnuson said a teaching component is critical to UNC's promise
of becoming a leader in this emerging science. UNC's department
of genetics is establishing a human genetics minor and, in conjunction
with the clinical departments, just accepted its first medical
"We have an obligation to train the
next generations of medical researchers to fulfill the promise
of this field, and our campuswide collaboration will ensure that
these budding researchers have the breadth of knowledge that
encourages discovery," Magnuson said.
The Carolina Center for Genome Sciences
represents a collaboration among the schools of dentistry, information
and library science, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health,
as well as the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of
Magnuson has hired seven of the nation's top assistant professors
in genomics since his July arrival. Among them are Dr. David
Threadgill from Vanderbilt University; Dr. Fernando de Manuel
de Villena de L'Epine from Temple University and the Fels Institute
for Cancer Research; Dr. Charles Perou from Stanford University;
Dr. Deborah Threadgill from Vanderbilt; Dr. Frank Conlon from
the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, United
Kingdom; and Dr. Larysa Halyna Pevny from the University of Sheffield,
United Kingdom. Dr. Shawn Ahmed, who will begin work in April,
is from the Medical Research Council in London.
Among the faculty whose appointments are outside the department
of genetics but whose research will have key implications for
genomics and genetics are the following: Dr. Jeffrey Dangl, John
N. Couch professor in the department of biology; Dr. Patrick
Flood, dean of the Dental Research Center; Dr. Alexander Tropsha,
associate professor in the School of Pharmacy; Dr. Ed Davis,
chairman of the department of biostatistics; Dr. Gary Marchioni,
Boshamer professor in the School of Information and Library Sciences;
Dr. Steve Downs, associate professor of pediatrics; Dr. Susan
Lord, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and director
of the Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology; Dr. Larry
Churchill, professor of social medicine; Dr. Richard Boucher
Jr., Kenan professor of medicine; Dr. Shelton Earp, professor
of medicine and pharmacology and director of the UNC Lineberger
Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Dr. Dianne Holditch-Davis, professor
in the School of Nursing.
"It's a special environment here,"
said Magnuson, who also is Sarah Graham Kenan professor. "Our
goal is to achieve interaction and coordination across campus.
In the opportunity we have to integrate the basic sciences with
health affairs, we are uniquely positioned for the challenge
of the post-genome era, a time after scientists have determined
the sequence of DNA and are looking to provide meaning to it."
Media Contacts: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415,
News Services; Karen Moon, (919) 962-8595, News Services; or
Les Lang, School of Medicine, (919) 843-9687.