An interdisciplinary consortium (cross-laboratories, cross-Colleges, cross-Universities), to study how the ‘Blueprint of Life’ is organized and decoded.
The human genome consists of linear, exceedingly long DNA molecules that are arranged in a highly complex three-dimensional architecture to form the 46 chromosomes. The entire genome has to be replicated faithfully each time a cell divides, and relevant information that is encoded within DNA must be identified and transcribed in a precisely orchestrated temporal and spatial fashion. How genome architecture informs genome function, and how it dictates access to the genetic information are major unresolved questions in biology, with broad implications for disease (e.g. cancers, muscle dystrophies, mental retardation, and many others). A detailed knowledge of genome architecture and function will potentially improve approaches in personalized medicine, gene therapy, genetic manipulation of plants, and systems biology.
Genome architecture is a multi-scale, four-dimensional problem that has to be approached at a wide range of size and time scales. Current tools in bioinformatics, imaging, and molecular biology have to be tailored or newly developed to meet these unique challenges. The generation of ‘Big Data’ from imaging and whole-genome approaches makes access to advanced bioinformatics essential. We have a sizeable community of well-funded labs across the research community who study various aspects of the genome. However, access to technologies (especially in bioinformatics, imaging, and structural biology) currently limits both scope and vision of individual labs. Concerted, multidisciplinary efforts from a highly collaborative team of scientists, combined with the development of and access to cutting-edge technology, are essential.
A thriving Institute for Genome Architecture and Function will eradicate all of these limitations and open new avenues for innovative research. We will provide a forum to pool current capabilities, and to discuss where there are gaps, so that novel tools can be developed, implemented, and made accessible to scientists with various backgrounds. The Institute will provide a framework in which to discuss and execute unconventional and ‘left field’ approaches, to expand ‘comfort zones’ of individual researchers. The community is very excited about the sheer potential of the Institute to elevate our research.
Goals and Milestones
In the long term, we will understand the organization and function of the human genome at multiple levels of complexity, through combining forces between research labs from across colleges, and enabled by ready access to cutting-edge technologies. Within a 2-year time frame, innovative technologies will be developed and made accessible to researchers on campus, through ‘enabling technology cores’ in Macromolecular Analytics, Bioinformatics, and Imaging. The Institute will host annual international summer courses and meetings to widely disseminate scientific findings and advances in technologies. The College of Liberal Arts will be integrated by designing outreach material (e.g. the ‘face’ of the Institute, course announcements, meeting posters, etc.). Return on investment will be measured in terms of external funding and research publications from the Institute (see below).
The 10X Challenge
The seven ‘Founders and Board of Directors’ have an outstanding track record in garnering external funding for individual and collaborative projects (e.g. W.M. Keck foundation, NIH, NSF, DOE, HHMI, Pew, etc.). We anticipate that Institute members will continue to be highly competitive for collaborative grants and ‘grand challenge’ RFPs from the government and private sectors. Several funding agencies are currently issuing ‘grand challenge’ RFPs on this topic. The Institute is aligned with ongoing cluster hires in Bioinformatics, and with an initiative in ‘predictive analytics’. We anticipate high synergy with both initiatives.
Publications from Institute members, presentations at international meetings, as well as Summer Courses and Annual Meetings will further increase CSU’s standing in the research community. We predict that the Institute, and with it, CSU, will quickly become a one-of-a-kind hub for cutting-edge genome research.
The institute addresses a fundamental question in biology with wide-reaching implications for human health. It embodies the “Multi-X” concept and is perfectly aligned with ongoing and planned faculty initiatives. It capitalizes on existing strengths at Colorado State University and neighboring Universities, and there is tremendous excitement from all prospective participants about its potential.