'Smart Subsidy' supports genomics services for Emory researchers

By Quinn Eastman | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | July 12, 2013

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The initiative will subsidize investigators' use of the latest genomics technologies, such as next-generation sequencing, genome-wide genotyping and expression microarrays.

In light of financial challenges arising from federal sequestration, the Winship Cancer Institute and Emory School of Medicine have launched a "Smart Subsidy" initiative for researchers who use the Emory Integrated Genomics Core (EIGC).

The "Smart Subsidy" initiative is aimed at supporting Winship and Emory researchers' use of genomics technologies, which have become bread-and-butter laboratory commodities. The EIGC is the result of a partnership between the Winship Cancer Institute and the Emory School of Medicine to consolidate genomic resources on the Emory campus into a single resource. This unit provides services allowing scientists to conduct deep sequencing, probe gene expression and methylation patterns in a tissue sample, or search for mutations in an individual's DNA or in a tumor.

"Federal budget austerity is putting pressure on investigators across Emory/Winship," says Carolyn Meltzer, MD, associate dean of research. "Our goal is to provide a robust infrastructure that will help our researchers obtain high-quality data and compete for grant funding in a competitive environment."

"The partnership between the School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute and this newly released Smart Subsidy Plan reflects significant institutional commitment and investment by both units," says Walter Curran, MD executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute. "Through this support, we aim to ensure that Emory faculty continue to have access to current technologies at a reasonable cost to conduct their research, especially in this difficult funding climate."

The initiative will subsidize investigators' use of the latest genomics technologies, such as next-generation sequencing, genome-wide genotyping and expression microarrays.

"The direct subsidy of the most exciting genomics technologies, when combined with our ongoing efforts to increase efficiency and cut costs by outsourcing next generation sequencing, enable us to provide a tremendous value to Emory researchers," says Michael Zwick, PhD, scientific director for the Emory Integrated Genomics Core and associate professor of human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine.

The subsidy will range between 5 and 15 percent for projects processed by the EIGC only.  To encourage increased volume for improved efficiency, larger projects will receive a higher percent subsidy.

The EIGC, located on the 7th floor of the Woodruff Memorial Research Building, is a full service genomics core providing sequencing and genotyping services in a research and CLIA setting as well as computational services needed for analysis. The EIGC is jointly supported by Winship Cancer Institute and the Emory School of Medicine.

The EIGC is also launching a custom Emory Galaxy server that will provide a computational infrastructure for analyzing genome-wide datasets. EIGC operates and maintains a local installation of the Galaxy bioinformatics analysis platform for use by Emory researchers. The Emory Galaxy cluster consists of local processing power as well as access to the larger Emory High Performance Computing Cluster (EHPCC).

"Generating vast quantities of data has become the relatively easy part of our job. Making sense of the data is the key challenge, and we believe that our new bioinformatics services and the launching of the Galaxy server will aid Emory researchers in this task," Zwick says. "Many faculty tell me that they need a bioinformatics expert to aid them in analyzing their data, but do not want to hire a full-time person to do this work. This is exactly where the EIGC fits in. We can provide technical experts for specific projects, thus provide value to researchers at a competitive cost."

The EIGC also works closely with other core faciltiies on campus such as the Winship Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Shared Resource and the Biostatistical Support for Biomedical Research Service Center for complicated analyses to ensure a seamless pipeline for data analyses.

More information on the EIGC and Smart Subsidy pricing is available at http://eigc.emory.edu/.