Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

MAY15 2018

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) is the world's most widely read biotech publication. It provides the R&D community with critical information on the tools, technologies, and trends that drive the biotech industry.

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6 | MAY 15, 2018 | | Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News GEN etic Engineering & Biotechnology News Scoop the Since its founding in 1962, St. Jude Children's Research Hos- pital has had a focus on basic and translational science. From molecular advances to innovative therapies, St. Jude scientists have pioneered discoveries that have saved children's lives. In fact, treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% when the hospital opened to 80% today, according to its scientific director and executive vice president, James I. Morgan, Ph.D. St. Jude recently announced that ground will be broken this year on a new $412 million research facility in Memphis, TN. The building will be designed as an interactive hub of exploration and discovery to cultivate research and col- laboration, as well as attract scientists and clinicians to St. Jude. GEN recently interviewed Dr. Morgan about the types of technolo- gies and projects that will be the focus of the new facility. He oversees the in- stitution's basic science programs and related research efforts. GEN : How will the new research center expand on your current scientific and clinical capabilities? Dr. Morgan: Two cornerstones of St. Jude are our willingness to collaborate and share information freely, both internally and externally. The advanced research center will continue to embrace this philosophy. We have state-of-the-art technologies, expert faculty, ex- traordinary core facilities, and funding to pursue innovative ideas. Nevertheless, biomedical research frequently requires that we introduce new technologies and incorporate emerg- ing fields of research. Through its sheer size and scale, the advanced research center will allow us to meet these challenges. The center will accommodate up to 90 new research teams and enable us to develop programs in fields such as RNA biology, epigenetics, and metabolomics. Furthermore, the center will strategically position investigators and their associated technologies to maximize collaboration. Our aim was to enhance visual transparency both within and between floors. We will arrange areas around shared re- sources so researchers can connect with one another. A feel- ing of openness and transparency is enhanced through the use of interior glass walls and natural light from a courtyard and skylights. Bridges and open staircases span the atriums and link interaction zones. Key technologies and support facilities are arranged to fos- ter cross-disciplinary use. Finally, all areas of the building fea- ture advanced information technology systems and visualiza- tion tools to facilitate information sharing and collaboration. GEN : What kinds of specialized equipment will be brought into the new center? Dr. Morgan: The new facility will accommodate essential resources, including: • a center for advanced genome engineering; • an induced pluripotent stem cell derivation and differentiation facility; • an advanced light microscopy and image analysis core, housing lattice light sheet, and correlative and super-resolution microscopes, integrated with high-speed IS infrastructure, computational, and visualization tools, all to establish one of the most advanced, integrated microscopy centers in the world; • an immunometabolism core with mass spectrometry and Seahorse technology; and • a flow cytometry core. The center will also be uniquely positioned to perform integrated preclinical cancer trials, develop additional mod- els of cancer, and monitor outcomes and drug responses. GEN : Are there any other instruments or equipment systems that remain on your wish list? Dr. Morgan: We are fortunate to have the resources required to bring necessary instruments and equipment into our re- search facilities. However, we know that instruments and technologies evolve. This was a challenge when planning for a building four years prior to its opening. To "future proof" the center, two floors and part of the basement will be shelled for future growth. We have identified optimal locations for current and future instrumentation that might be sensitive to interference from vibration, EMF, light, or fluctuating temperature, and have designed them appropriately. Thus, the advanced re- search center is expected to serve the institution's needs in the short and long terms. GEN : What roles do biotechnology and molecular biology play at St. Jude? Dr. Morgan: The understanding of cellular function is para- mount in our quest to eradicate childhood life-threatening diseases. The investment in support of technology at St. Jude is paralleled by its commitment to advancing basic and translational research. Most recently, St. Jude established the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology to lead efforts to elucidate normal cellular functions and determine how those functions are impaired in disease. The department's research illuminates the molecular basis of basic cellular processes such as RNA dynamics and mRNA transcription and translation, mitochondrial function, and autophagy and cell death. In the advanced research center, investigators in this department will be juxtaposed with other researchers who have complementary interests such as immu- nology, neurobiology, and developmental biology. GEN : What kinds of research technologies (e.g., CRISPR, immunotherapy, epigenetics) are currently used at the hospital, and which new research technologies will be enabled by the new center? Dr. Morgan: St. Jude researchers are using the latest and most advanced research technologies to accelerate discovery for cures to childhood life-threatening illnesses. Immunotherapy—Our scientists and clinicians have been studying antibody and immune cell-based therapies for more than a decade, and have been using immunotherapy treat- ments for various forms of cancer. Epigenetics—In addition to research into the molecular and structural underpinning of epigenetic processes, St. Jude re- searchers are also studying genetic and epigenetic contributions to pediatric solid tumors such as retinoblastoma and hemato- logical malignancies, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia. CRISPR—Our Center for Advanced Genome Engineer- ing enables our investigators to educate, assist, expedite, and perform genome engineering technologies, including the CRISPR-Cas9 technology. We will continue to develop and introduce emerging genome editing technologies and appli- cations to the St. Jude community. To view the entire article visit St. Jude to Build a Collab-Fostering Research Hub Ground Will Be Broken for a 625,000 -Square-Foot Facility to Be Completed in 2021 Artist's rendering of the planned $412 million research facility. James I. Morgan, Ph.D.

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