The glaucoma project
Simon John leads a smooth-running team effort to investigate glaucoma's causes and find targets for therapy.
The first part of 2012 has been marked by swift progress at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn. Planning for the permanent facility is well along, as the dramatic architectural rendering on the inside front cover shows. Groundbreaking for the 173,000-square-foot facility is scheduled for January 2013 on the campus of the University of Connecticut Health Center. The new building will be ready for occupancy in late 2014. In the interim, the newly hired faculty and staff have established interim quarters.
Recruitment has accelerated, and several administrators and faculty members have already begun their work in the interim facility.
Yu-Hui Rogers, M.S., a genomics researcher and experienced scientific administrator, will be in charge of operations and all aspects of research support at JAX Genomic Medicine, including finance, human resources, information technology, facilities and scientific services. She began work in July.
Jeffrey Chuang, Ph.D., comes to JAX Genomic Medicine from Boston College. Chuang is a computational biologist who investigates gene regulation, molecular evolution and high-throughput lipidomics, the study of cellular lipid pathways. He began work in August.
Frank McKeon, Ph.D., came to JAX Genomic Medicine in July with his colleague and partner Wa Xian, Ph.D. McKeon previously held positions at Harvard Medical School and the Genome Institute of Singapore and will serve as director of quantitative cell biology in addition to his faculty position. He and Xian research stem cell maintenance and pathways through which stem cells may contribute to early stages of cancer development.
Several administrative positions have also been filled. Senior Human Resources Manager Carol O'Brien will be in charge of HR functions; Nicholas Trafford is the new computer network engineer; and Tammy Brink will serve as the assistant to Site Director Yu-Hui Rogers.
The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) elected Jackson Laboratory President and CEO Edison Liu, M.D., to its Board of Directors for a term beginning June 19, 2012. Liu was the scientific director of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Clinical Sciences before serving for 10 years as founding director of the Genome Institute of Singapore.
"To know Ed is to admire and respect him," says Martin J. Murphy, Ph.D., FNIH board member. "This is a great day for the National Institutes of Health and its Foundation, but most of all it's a great day for patients."
Liu's research has focused on the functional genomics of human cancers, particularly breast cancer, uncovering new oncogenes, and investigating the genomics of cancer biology. "As a member of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, I'm looking forward to working with the private sector to build support for the medical breakthroughs we need to address critical public health issues in our nation and around the world," says Liu.
These days, getting into The Jackson Laboratory's Summer Student Program is about as competitive as being accepted by an Ivy League college or university. The 39 students in the 2012 program were selected from more than 600 applicants.
This year's students come from 17 U.S. states and Israel. Now in its 88th year, the renowned program welcomes students to campus for a summer of biomedical research. Each student conducts an independent research project under the mentorship of a Laboratory scientist and presents their work at the conclusion of the program. In addition to working on their research projects, the students participate in outdoor activities throughout the summer, including hiking, sea kayaking, white-water rafting, camping trips and nature cruises.
The Summer Student Program experience has helped to inspire many successful careers in science and medicine, including those of three Nobel Laureates: Howard Temin, David Baltimore and Jack Szostak.
The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine is a vital part of a large-scale effort by the state of Connecticut to expand nonprofit and academic biomedical research in the state. Assistant Editor Karen Kaplan of Nature Careers, published by one of the world's most influential scientific journals, covered the development of the new institute in "Gains and losses," a trend story posted online on May 30, 2012.
Connecticut is facing contraction of its corporate pharmaceutical and biotech companies. At the same time, the Laboratory, the University of Connecticut and Yale University are all expanding in the field.
"At a time when most of American higher education is facing serious financial hardships and public institutions are reeling from budget cuts, The Jackson Laboratory, UConn, Yale and the state of Connecticut are partnering to focus on a new field of science: genomic medicine," says Jackson Laboratory Vice President for Advancement Mike Hyde.
An intriguing clue to longevity lurks in the sexual maturation timetable of female mammals, Jackson Laboratory researchers and their collaborators report.
Research Scientist Rong Yuan, Ph.D., has led investigation into the role of a hormone, IGF1, in longevity. He found mouse strains with lower circulating levels of IGF1 at six months of age tend to live longer than strains with relatively higher levels. Further inquiry, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 7, reveals that females with low IGF1 levels also reach sexual maturity at a significantly later age.
"This suggests a genetically regulated tradeoff—delayed reproduction but longer life—that is at least partially mediated by IGF1," Yuan says.
Given that a high level of IGF1 in humans has been shown to lead to earlier age of menarche (onset of menstruation), it may also affect human longevity. Further research into IGF1's role in both development and longevity will yield insight into the aging process.
The Jackson Laboratory has again been voted among the top 15 "Best Places to Work in Academia" in the world for 2012. The poll was conducted by The Scientist, a magazine for people working in the life sciences, and published in the August 2012 issue. Topping the list was J. David Gladstone Institutes, a biomedical research facility in San Francisco.
The Laboratory was ranked No. 11 of 25 top worldwide academic research institutions (up from No. 13 in 2011), placing just ahead of the Cleveland Clinic and Boston Children's Hospital. Readers participating in the survey cited the Laboratory's infrastructure and environment as well as peer interactions as the institution's greatest workplace strengths.
At its annual awards dinner on July 13, 2012, The Jackson Laboratory honored a longtime researcher and philanthropist; a respected physician and Laboratory supporter; and a pioneering mouse geneticist and environmental activist.
Professor Emeritus Douglas Coleman, Ph.D., received the Award for Philanthropy for his ongoing support of research and education at the Laboratory. Coleman's 40-year research career focused on finding the genetic causes of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The Award for Distinguished Service was presented to neurologist Robert Holtzman, M.D., who began his association with the Laboratory as a 14-year-old summer student in 1956. Holtzman chairs the New York Chapter of The National Council, the Laboratory's network of supporters, and has hosted numerous chapter dinners and receptions on behalf of the Laboratory.
The Award for Scientific Achievement went to geneticist Beverly Paigen, Ph.D., who joined the Laboratory in 1989. Paigen is recognized as a pioneer in using mice to study heart disease. She was an early adopter of computational biology and statistical genetics in her research and has been active in developing and presenting educational programs.