The John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has received a $7.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build a large patient sample biorepository and expand lab space. The new facility will give scientists better tools to study cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, autism and many other conditions.
“This is a huge win for the medical campus and the university as a whole,” said Associate Professor Jacob McCauley, Ph.D., who directs the Biorepository Core Facility at the Hussman Institute and is the grant’s recipient. “We will be adding more than 6,000 square feet of new research space to our medical campus. This doubles the size of our existing biorepository and gives us enhanced capabilities to receive, process and store many more biospecimens.”
Wide support, with a focus on genomics
While the biorepository is managed by the Hussman Institute, it will support a wide array of studies, though genomics will be a particular focus. The facility will house two large, automated freezer systems to provide long-term biospecimen storage at temperatures as low as -80° C.
These automated freezers will dramatically increase sample storage capabilities, enhance biosecurity and accelerate sample retrieval, helping the core facility’s dedicated lab team increase efficiency and provide even more support for UM research.
The modular freezer systems can also be readily expanded as more storage is needed for UM’s growing research programs. The new facility’s central location will also enhance sample collection.
“The repository will be built with adjacent clinical research enrollment and collection spaces,” Dr. McCauley said. “Study participants for any research project on campus can be scheduled for a blood draw, and then we can process that sample right away. This timely processing can be huge when preserving samples, and the dedicated space will make our clinical research more efficient.”
Supporting the precision medicine initiative
In addition to the NIH grant, the Miller School is setting aside matching funds to launch a precision medicine initiative. By procuring biological samples from the most diverse populations, UM scientists can design therapies that benefit all patients.
“Our health system and scientific enterprise are enriched by a diverse patient and research participant population,” Dr. McCauley said. “The precision medicine initiative can be a game changer by increasing diversity and inclusion in UM biomedical research. The specimens we can collect and store in this facility, which we can use to study genomics and other biological mechanisms, can really influence how we conduct research and provide care for many of our patients.”
The new storage facilities will support research in the near term and well into the future. Dr. McCauley believes that, as new research technologies emerge, the stored patient samples will offer investigators long-term opportunities.
“I think there will be some tremendous synergies,” he said. “This infrastructure will help us support all the different biomedical research programs at UM. Building out these capabilities will give us new tools to conduct research and support patient care.”