Genome Center to Encourage Cooperative, Efficient Research

MERCED - With genomes of humans and many other organisms sequenced, scientists worldwide now aim to discover what the genes in those genomes do and how they interact with each other. Several promising genomics researchers at the University of California, Merced, will be able to continue their advanced genomics research thanks to a $500,000 gift that will fund a high-end, cooperative laboratory facility that will include computers, robots, and other equipment to help scientists study the genes of all kinds of organisms, from bacteria to sea creatures to human beings.

"This generous gift demonstrates a commitment to advancing human and environmental health through cutting-edge science," said Dean Maria Pallavicini of UC Merced's School of Natural Sciences. "The Genome Center will allow UC Merced scientists to move forward with their research using state-of-the-art equipment here on campus, contributing toward the goals of healthier people and environments in the future."

The new center will further UC Merced's innovative plan for scientific laboratory space. Rather than islands of individual exploration, UC Merced encourages professors to collaborate in building efficient, shared centers, called Core Labs, that house the technology needed to build knowledge in the interdisciplinary fields of the 21st century.

Having the sophisticated equipment of the Genome Center on campus will make a difference in work like the research of professors Jennifer O. Manilay, Mónica Medina and Miriam Barlow. Manilay and Medina helped present the proposed center to the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

"The donor seemed to identify with my research in developmental immunology," said Manilay, who plans to use the new genome center in her study of the development of lymphocytes in the immune system, aiming to identify genes involved in cell fate decisions.

Medina, who studies corals and algae, says genomic research will permit "giant steps toward understanding the biology of the coral reef, an ecosystem threatened by global warming." The
health of that system affects other ocean resources such as the fisheries crucial for much of the world's food supply.

"Having the Genome Center at UC Merced will expedite my findings, since I currently have to schedule time at the UCSF facility and spend several days there when we are printing genome arrays," Medina says. "Removing obstacles of availability, cost, and commuting will make a great difference in my work."

The new center will include customized equipment such as a microarray robot and software, a microarray scanner and a liquid handling robot, funded by the donor.

"Older research technologies allow us to examine one gene at a time," explains Barlow, who studies the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. "Microarray analysis is a way of addressing the same questions by looking at every gene that is expressed, all at once. This makes it easier to identify complex interactions within and between cells." Barlow hopes her research will help extend the useful lifetimes of antibiotics.





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