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New campus center poised to push the boundaries of genetic science

August 20, 2019 By Natasha Kassulke

Recognizing that genomic research is at the forefront of modern biological investigation and underscoring UW–Madison’s strong status in this rapidly evolving field have led to creation of a new campus center.

On Sept. 1, the Center for Genomic Science Innovation opens with the goal of developing innovative technological and computational genomic approaches to address modern problems in medicine, agriculture and basic scientific discovery.

Audrey Gasch, professor of genetics, has been named interim director and will report to the vice chancellor for research and graduate education.

Photo: Portrait of Audrey Gasch

Audrey Gasch

Gasch is an expert on comparative and functional genomics, systems biology, microbial physiology and evolution, and eukaryotic stress-defense mechanisms.

The CGSI will be co-located with the UW–Madison Biotechnology Center building, which provides a range of shared services that support genomics research on campus.

“We look forward to taking our longstanding interactions with CGSI faculty to the next level,” says Chris Bradfield, director of the Biotechnology Center. “One of our goals is to make new technologies developed within the center readily available to campus researchers.”

“We are grateful to Audrey for stepping into this leadership position,” says Norman Drinkwater, interim vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “With her leadership, we expect the CGSI will foster new interdisciplinary research programs to advance genomic science at UW–Madison and enhance UW–Madison’s competitiveness in procuring federal research funds.

“The time is ripe for a center on campus that not only incorporates existing genomic tools, but will be dedicated to creating new genomic methods and techniques.”

The CGSI has been created as part of the reorganization of the Genome Center of Wisconsin. Research in the CGSI will focus on three central themes: innovation in genomic technology; innovating computational-genomic methods; and creatively integrating genomic approaches for new understanding of complex biological systems.

“We are excited to leverage opportunities within and beyond the new CGSI to push collaborative genomics forward on campus,” says Gasch, on behalf of the new center.

The center will initially have 12 members. In the last five years, these center members have published over 215 papers that involved at least one other UW–Madison faculty member and participated in collaborative grants to UW–Madison that collectively brought in $163 million total cost dollars, including center and training grants.

Innovation by members of the CGSI is also highlighted by the 143 inventions and 105 patents/applications held by CGSI faculty. The center also will administer two training grants that serve a fundamental role at UW–Madison in educating the next generation of genomicists, the Genomic Sciences Training Program funded by the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute, and the Computation and Informatics in Biology and Medicine training program funded by the NIH National Library of Medicine.

CGSI will also host the Genomics Seminar Series, focusing this fall on presentations from CGSI faculty members to stimulate collaborative discussions.