UAB School of Medicine, HudsonAlpha Create Joint Center for Genomic Medicine

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology have created the UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine to accelerate discoveries in genomics and propel those discoveries into clinical practice.

The UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine will span human genome research — studying the complexities of human DNA to understand, at a molecular level, the genetic underpinnings for the onset and progression of diseases — with clinical care, incorporating research knowledge into predicting and diagnosing diseases and developing personalized therapies and cures.

The partnership formalizes a longtime collaborative relationship and combines HudsonAlpha’s unique concentration of genomics expertise, technologies and infrastructure with UAB’s leadership in academic research and clinical medicine that makes the translation of genetic discoveries into patient care possible. The center was approved by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees on Friday, June 13, 2014; final approval is expected by the board of directors of HudsonAlpha later this summer.

“This partnership offers great opportunities for our faculty to help lead the effort to incorporate genomics into routine medical care,” said Bruce Korf, M.D. chair of the Department of Genetics in the School of Medicine and UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center senior scientist. “It provides an opportunity for us to be national leaders in medical genomics research and to provide the most advanced care to our patients.”

“HudsonAlpha is one of a handful of nationally recognized genomic research centers,” Korf said. “Very few academic medical centers have direct access to the technology and expertise that HudsonAlpha provides. HudsonAlpha has tremendous depth in genomics and bioinformatics, and UAB has depth in genetic medicine. Together we can accomplish more than either one of us could accomplish separately.”

“Our alliance to provide personalized care for patients is very exciting,” said Richard M. Myers, Ph.D. president and science director of HudsonAlpha. “UAB is an outstanding institution that has provided world-class medical care to our state for decades. Human genomic medicine is an important part of our research portfolio, which also includes our research in basic genetics, plant genomics, bioenergy and animal genomics. We look forward to expanding even further into the genomic medicine area with UAB because our projects to date have yielded important discoveries that will impact patient care.”

Korf and Myers will co-direct the UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine, with the administrative function managed by UAB’s Department of Genetics. The center will be made up of a cross section of scientists and physicians from UAB and HudsonAlpha scientists working at both campuses. It will yield economic, scientific, clinical and educational rewards, including the ability to recruit more world-class scientists and physicians to the region and a competitive edge when applying for research grants and contracts, Korf says.

“We are going to be launching significant initiatives that will allow us to incorporate genomics into the fabric of our research at a higher level,” Korf said. “This means more contracts, more grants and more activity that will translate into new jobs and new discoveries.”

Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the UAB School of Medicine, said, “The UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine is both a significant biotechnology enterprise that elevates Alabama as a place for cutting-edge research and a catalyst for personalized medicine for patients in Alabama and across the Southeast.”

The center, Korf and Myers say, has three aims initially:

  • building research teams with scientists across UAB in areas such as cancer, diabetes, cardiology, neurology and rheumatology with the goal of integrating genomic information into medical care for each of the disease areas;
  • wide-scale genetic sequencing aimed at discovering genes responsible for a number of medical disorders; and
  • building a program to educate researchers and physicians so they can incorporate genomic information in their day-to-day research or patient care and open training opportunities for graduate students and medical trainees.

“HudsonAlpha faculty seek to collaborate with people and organizations that tackle important and intriguing challenges,” Myers said. “The scientists and clinicians at UAB fit that description very well. This collaboration exemplifies the power of partnership, connecting UAB’s long-standing expertise in clinical genetics and patient care with HudsonAlpha’s proficiency in genomic sequencing and analysis. Together we can achieve greater insight into the biology behind disease onset, progression and patient response to treatments.

“Genomics has the potential to impact every person because changes in each individual’s unique DNA can influence whether that person is healthy, develops disease or will respond to various therapies,” Myers said. “The future of medicine lies in incorporating genomic analysis and technology into the health care system, where patients are diagnosed and treated.”

About HudsonAlpha: The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology represents more than $200 million in investments in genomics capability made during the past six years through the generosity of private philanthropists and the state of Alabama. HudsonAlpha is a nonprofit organization with the mission to translate the promise of genomics into all practical realms:  medical, agricultural, energy and environmental, educational, and commercial. The Institute houses in its facilities a unique blend of nonprofit scientists and for-profit entrepreneurs and corporate leaders who share know-how and challenges across organizational boundaries — an arrangement designed to accelerate commercialization. HudsonAlpha has a unique concentration of genomics expertise, technologies and infrastructure and collaborates and partners with medical schools, research universities and the global biotechnology industry.

About the UAB School of Medicine: With more than 800 students and 1,200 faculty, the School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of the premier academic medical centers in the United States. UAB is among the top schools in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and is routinely listed among the best in various national rankings. As the educational arm of UAB Medicine, students, residents and fellows train in a world-class setting; UAB Hospital’s 1,200 beds places it in among the largest hospitals in the country. Doctoral students in UAB’s Graduate Biomedical Sciences Program participate in interdisciplinary thematic programs that integrate more than 25 departments and 20 research centers across UAB. The UAB School of Medicine: knowledge that will change your world.