Texas A&M University has announced the Whole Systems Genomics Initiative (WSGI), a strong faculty-conceived program developed as part of the Chancellor's Research Initiative (CRI) to define the future of genomic science, enabling researchers to address some of the most pressing challenges facing modern society through innovative and collaborative scholarly programs.
While recent advances in technology have led to impactful discoveries in deciphering and engineering genomes, the next era of genomic science will push the frontiers of discovery as researchers work together in a coordinated effort to identify novel applications for this new knowledge.
"Genomic science, as the newest frontier in scholarly research, is throwing open the door to a revolutionary way of approaching our health, the health and welfare of animals, and the sustainability of our environment," said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University system. "Strengthened by the collaborative efforts of faculty experts from across the system, the Whole Systems Genomics Initiative represents the catalyst for the next quantum leap in scientific discovery."
The CRI provides one-time funds to Texas A&M University and Prairie View A&M University for the recruitment and hiring of faculty members. Funding, at $33 million for 2013 and 2014 with an anticipated $34 million in 2015, comes from the Available University Fund (AUF) distribution, and is available for the recruitment of key faculty who have a proven track record of success in developing and implementing large, multi-investigator, federally funded programs.
Dr. David Threadgill, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a leader in genomics, has been recruited from North Carolina State University as the director for the WSGI. He will be tasked with positioning Texas A&M as a global leader in genomics by aligning teams from diverse expertise and disciplines currently located at Texas A&M, and establishing rich collaborations both nationally and internationally. Threadgill will have academic appointments as professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), and professor and holder of the Tom and Jean McMullin Chair of Genetics in the Department of Molecular & Cellular Medicine in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.
A solid framework for the WSGI already is in place, with 184 faculty members in 39 departments and units across nine colleges, Texas A&M Health Science Center and other A&M System components. The establishment of the WSGI reinforces Texas A&M's commitment to One Health, the concept that animal, human, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked, and to the creation of a world-class genomics program.
"This innovative program has the potential to vastly improve the lives of humans and animals, and to advance agricultural productivity," said Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, president of Texas A&M University, "by leveraging one of our strengths at Texas A&M: collaboration by outstanding faculty, students and staff from several disciplines to address real-world issues."
The genome revolution will lead to rapid advancements in personalized medicine for human, animal and plant disease management; genetically engineered organisms for improved biofuel production and environmental sustainability; and enhanced efficiency of food production and security. At the same time, researchers engaged in genomic discovery will also need to address new ethical, social, legal and policy challenges that arise as new discoveries profoundly impact animals, people and the environment on a global scale.
With a strong vision for the WSGI, Threadgill will lead a diverse team of researchers that will stimulate interdisciplinary research, increase accessibility to critical infrastructure and funding for genomic investigations, and create synergy among faculty members and trainees already engaged in genomic research in various species. Through enhancing these existing collaborations, Texas A&M University will be able to leverage its nationally and internationally renowned expertise in veterinary medicine, medicine, biomedical sciences, agriculture, engineering and public policy in a coordinated effort to solve future societal concerns of Texas, Texans and the global population from the leading edge of scientific discovery.