• newswise-fullscreen World’s Largest University Biorepository Celebrates Expansion

    Credit: Nick Romaneko, Rutgers

    Rutgers President Robert Barchi (left), U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (center), and Prof. Jay Tischfield cut the ribbon for RUCDR's expansion

  • newswise-fullscreen World’s Largest University Biorepository Celebrates Expansion

    Credit: Nick Romaneko, Rutgers

    Prof. Jay Tischfield (right) explains one of the new systems RUCDR has installed to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (left) and Rutgers President Robert Barchi.

Recovery Act Provided Nearly $10 Million to Create New Genomics Technology Center

Newswise — PISCATAWAY, N.J. — RUCDR Infinite Biologics, the world’s largest university-based biorepository, has completed an $11.8 million renovation project to create a new Genomics Technology Center, comprising 12,500 square feet of laboratory, office, and storage space on the Busch Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

The project was funded by a $9.5 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or The Recovery Act, also known as “the stimulus package.” In recognition of the federal grant, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone were invited to speak at the ribbon-cutting ceremony today (May 17) at Rutgers.

The National Institutes of Health allocated the ARRA funds to Rutgers. With the facility’s expansion, NIH has named RUCDR as the provider of sample processing, analysis, and storage, and data management, for research projects funded through four of the NIH institutes.

“The Genomics Technology Center was built through the stimulus for the purpose of stimulating NIH-funded research,” RUCDR founder and CEO Jay A. Tischfield said. “This sort of advanced- technology, automated facility was sorely needed on the national level, and we anticipate a continual increase in use by Rutgers faculty, including those joining us from UMDNJ and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.”

Tischfield, who directs the Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey and is Rutgers’ Duncan and Nancy Macmillan professor of genetics, established RUCDR in 1998 as the Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository. “This will advance our understanding of the causes of diseases, particularly mental disorders and addictions,” he said, adding that a side benefit of the project is the addition of sophisticated sample-management systems the FDA requires for the clinical trials of new drugs.

The Genomics Technology Center will serve government agencies, foundations, and private-sector clients worldwide, including major pharmaceutical companies. RUCDR helps strengthen research and workforce development in New Jersey, creating high-technology jobs and establishing growing partnerships with both the government and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors.

“The scientific work conducted at and facilitated by RUCDR represent some of today’s most valuable medical and life-sciences research,” said Kenneth J. Breslauer, Linus C. Pauling professor of chemistry and chemical biology, dean and vice president, Life and Health Sciences; and interim vice president, Research and Economic Development. “The state-of-the-art genetics here provides scientists with powerful tools to investigate the causes, treatments and cures of many common diseases effecting people around the world.”

RUCDR offers a complete and integrated selection of biological sample processing, analysis, and storage services. Andrew I. Brooks, chief operating officer, director of technology development and Rutgers associate research professor of genetics, says the operation has a full-time staff of 125, has added more than 30 employees since 2010, and further hiring is planned. Employees of BST work in the jointly managed operation at Rutgers, which helps BST serve its customers and expand its business on the East Coast.

“We’ve integrated our operation to make us more efficient, thereby increasing our capacity so we can better serve NIH-funded researchers but also to make our services more available to the private sector,” Brooks said. “We’ve expanded out infrastructure and doubled our automation analytical capabilities. Our goal is to standardize biosample collection, processing, distribution, and analysis to facilitate and accelerate the disease-discovery process.”

“There is no operation like ours in the world,” he said. “Industry has operations of this size but those do not have the science or the scope. There are academic facilities with the vision and the science but they do not compare in size.”

RUCDR provides DNA, RNA, and cell lines with clinical data to hundreds of research laboratories worldwide for studies on mental health and developmental disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, diabetes, and digestive, liver, and kidney diseases. It currently stores more than 12 million biosamples. Revenues average $30 million annually and have exceeded $350 million since 1998. While most of the revenue is from grant-funded research, the level of industry service income continues to grow, including some new contracts with major pharmaceutical companies and academic medical centers.

RUCDR received a $10 million federal grant last year to provide DNA extraction, basic genetic testing, and repository services for more than 46,000 saliva samples, in support of national research efforts to determine the genetic and environmental factors that lead to alcoholism. Rutgers’ Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey recently received a $2.2 million grant for research into the genetics of autism spectrum disorder, led by Brzustowicz, which will be facilitated by RUCDR.

RUCDR has begun to provide clinical diagnostic services to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, supporting the institute’s initiative into personalized or precision medicine, providing diagnostics and treatment based on an individual patient’s genetic profile.

RUCDR formed a strategic alliance last year with BioStorage Technologies, its first with a commercial entity. BST is a global corporation, giving the Rutgers operation a worldwide reach. It encompasses all biorepository functions, including sample management consulting, study logistics, collection-kit manufacturing, sample storage, and tissue collection. The agreement also covers clinical sample bioprocessing, such as blood fractionation, nucleic-acid extraction, and cell-line establishment, as well as analytical services, such as gene expression, sequencing, and genotyping.

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