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Overview

The fundamental scientific focus of the Center for Genomic Sciences (CGS) is functional genomics. This term includes gene discovery the identification of genes associated with normal and abnormal physiological functions using affected patient populations and statistical means, but goes beyond this to elucidate the roles these genes play in homeostatic processes and the detailed mechanisms by which they play these roles. Functional genomics is the foundation upon which the future of medicine will be built. Unlike many previous modes of biological discovery, the concept of functional genomics cuts across traditional discipline lines. Functional genomics is an iterative process which begins with the patient, goes through the laboratory, and returns to the patient in the form of improved care. Functional genomics can best flourish in a rich clinical environment because of the fundamental necessity for close collaboration among patients, physicians, and scientists. Thus, the most important discoveries will emanate from academic health centers, as these are the only organizations which can assemble all three groups.

The development of a family of technologies based on the manipulation of nucleic acids has provided the biomedical sciences with a lingua franca for the first time. The development of this language has in turn fostered the development of the field of functional genomics and has helped unite the various medical specialties and has removed many artificial barriers between disciplines. The founding premise of the CGS was that by pooling the varied expertises of the member scientists and clinicians in the creation of a combined laboratory resource, the CGS would create a synergistic environment for research that would foster faculty development, reduce overall institutional costs and generate extramural funding. Unlike individual investigators' laboratories that focus for years on a single disease or system, CGS focuses on technologies that are broadly applicable to studying a wide range of conditions, such as fragment analyses, differential display, suppression subtraction technologies, gene array technology, proteomics, molecular imaging methods and strain construction. The CGS staff then develops expertise in these techniques permitting individual investigators to assemble their research programs freed from many of the concerns associated with laboratory and technique development.

The CGS draws its member scientists from nearly every department in the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and thus serves as a common molecular genetics laboratory obviating the need for each investigative or clinical group from having to establish, maintain, and run a modern molecular research facility. This allows surgeon-scientists to conduct cutting edge molecular research who would otherwise not have the time or resources to engage in a productive research career, and it provides basic scientists with an unparalleled opportunity to excel in their chosen fields of endeavor while reducing overall costs and maximizing efficiency.

The CGS and its member scientists collectively possess the five fundamental elements necessary for an efficient gene discovery enterprise: 1) well-characterized patient populations spanning all medical specialties; 2) state-of-the-art comparative genomic and expressomic facilities, as well as automated genotyping and sequencing laboratories; 3) modern animal laboratory facilities to produce animal models of disease processes for controlled study; 4) automated data processing and analysis systems; and 5) a cooperative intellectual and professional environment. The scientific staff of the CGS function synergistically, sharing technical, laboratory and personnel resources; this permits efficiencies of scale and maximizes return on fiscal and intellectual capital investments. Thus the CGS provides all of the resources necessary for the rapid identification and characterization of human genes associated with development, disease, and disease susceptibilities.


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