The Institute for Systems Genomics (ISG) was established in 2012 to capitalize on the emerging synergy among faculty engaged in genome-based research and training efforts from departments, schools and colleges across UConn campuses and our CT-based partner, the Jackson Laboratories for Genomic Medicine (JAX-GM). The ISG used the 2011 National Institutes of Health roadmap for genome research as the foundation for the development and implementation of new cross-disciplinary programs towards the goal of strengthening the research and training profile of UConn in genomics. As a new area of inquiry that emerged from the successes of the first phase of the Human Genome Project less than 20 years ago, the field of genomics today spans areas as broad as data science, biology, agriculture and sustainability, computer science, physics, chemistry, engineering, math, medicine, sociology, philosophy, data visualization, business, and law. Thus, the ISG is necessarily multi- disciplinary, cross-campus, and inter-institutional and serves as a nexus to coalesce genome-based inquiry across diverse disciplines to support an internationally recognized CT community. Enabled by the programs and support services developed under the ISG to facilitate successes among trainees and faculty, genomics has been classified as an area of strength at UConn, and one of the largest areas of growth at UConn, as highlighted in the EAB University Research Forum presented in the Fall 2019.
2020 Summary Statement:
Through our research, training/education and outreach pillars, the ISG has provided 72 workshops, conferences and special events, developed a service and training infrastructure currently supporting 4 cores/centers, provided $1.2M in internal funding opportunities, developed and implemented 4 new graduate programs (42 students to date), and supported the growth of the genomics research portfolio at UConn in excess of $414M in external grant funding ($260M direct) since 2013. The ISG has grown from 11 members in 2012 to 148 faculty members in 2020, 124 of whom are UConn faculty. These faculty hail from 38 departments across 9 schools/colleges within UConn, including CLAS, CAHNR, Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Nursing, Business, Pharmacy, and Law, along with our CT partner at JAX (24 members). Ongoing and emerging collaborations between the ISG and the School of Social Work and School of Fine Arts further increases the impact of the ISG to 11 schools/colleges at UConn. ISG cores and centers support an additional 167 UConn faculty that are not represented in the ISG membership nor in our achievement metrics and grant funding, indicating that the ISG is vital to a much larger, and growing, community of researchers.
Specific Goals of the ISG:
• To establish a world-class program for research and training in Genomics and in Personalized Medicine by mobilizing the strengths of the Jackson Labs and the University of Connecticut, with other academic and industry partners.
• To lower administrative barriers to collaboration among JAX, the Farmington Campus, and the Storrs campus in areas related to Genomics and to Personalized Medicine.
• To develop an academic structure that supports undergraduate, professional, and graduate education bridging the UConn and JAX genomics communities.
ISG Service Centers/Core Facilities:
The ISG, through its four centers and core facilities, serves as a hub to bring genomics technologies and applications to UConn PIs to increase their research funding potential. The ISG centers and cores represent our research pillars and include: 1) the Center for Genome Innovation (CGI); 2) the Computational Biology Core (CBC); 3) the iPSC and Chromosome Core (CC); and 4) the Single Cell Genomics Center (SCGC) at JAX-GM, the first cross-institute core facility spanning Storrs/UCH and JAXGM. All four of these cores/centers are high-tech instrumentation and expertise-based facilities, providing state of the art equipment acquisitions that are too expensive and cost ineffective to support via individual labs, as well as cutting-edge technical expertise and training opportunities in genomics applications.
ISG’s Outreach and Education Pillars:
The development of an academic structure that supports undergraduate, professional, and graduate education bridging the UConn and JAX genomics communities was the specific objective outlined at the inception of the ISG. The ISG has established a strong education/training pillar to include: graduate training through interdisciplinary courses, experiential and distance learning through modular format courses and workshops, graduate fellowships, Professional Science Master’s degree programs, graduate certificate programs and a PhD in Systems Genomics; and, undergraduate training through entrepreneurial research opportunities and workforce partner funded classes. The ISG supports community outreach through engaged programming, tours, collaborations with local entities (e.g. schools and the CT Science Center), and special events (e.g. “Genomics, Family and Health”).
Where is the ISG Located?
The ISG is on floors 2 and 3 of the new Engineering and Science Building, providing an open and collaborative research and training space. This state-of-the-art facility houses 10 faculty research labs, supporting office space, the headquarters of all of our centers/cores/training programs and the site for our Storrs-based core facilities. The ISG invited the Microbial Analysis and Resource Services (MARS) facility within CORE2E to join our core facilities to synergize sequencing needs and activities at UConn. The 23,658 square feet of assignable space was designed in an open-plan laboratory format, a first at Storrs, and includes a small laboratory schedules, and a central lobby/seminar/workshop space that can support several different occupancy formats (cap of 80 people). The building was completed and occupied in August 2017; the ISG participated in its grand opening with the CT Governor and the President of UConn in June 2018. The building supports UConn’s Green Campus Initiative and sustainability goals, having earned a CT Green Building Council Award of Merit in the fall 2019. Guided tours of ISG facilities and research programs are provided for candidates in faculty searches, graduate and undergraduate student recruiting efforts, government and UConn officials, visiting scholars, local-area schools, and national programs and conferences, and often include engaged programming, thus supporting a mechanism of outreach to the local, regional, and national communities through the ISG