Robert B. Darnell, Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neuro-oncology, has been named president and scientific director of the New York Genome Center. He will direct all aspects of the NYGC, including its scientific and research activities, and the recruitment and development of a world-class scientific team in genomic research and medicine.
Darnell, who previously advised NYGC as a member of its founding board and executive committee, also joins NYGC board of directors. He will remain at Rockefeller and will remain senior attending physician of The Rockefeller University Hospital as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Rockefeller is one of NYGC’s 11 institutional founding members.
Founded in August 2010, the NYGC is an independent, nonprofit organization that leverages the collaborative resources of leading academic medical centers, research universities and commercial organizations. Its vision is to transform medical research and clinical care in New York through the creation of one of the largest genomics research facilities in North America, integrating sequencing, bioinformatics and data management.
NYGC represents an unprecedented sharing of data and resources among premier institutions, which will dramatically increase the quality and speed of research outcomes to advance clinical care. This collaboration will help forward the advances leading to a new era of personalized medicine, accelerate the development of new diagnostics and treatments for human diseases, and provide an engine for life science commercialization in the region.
Over the next five years, NYGC expects to create more than 500 science-related jobs, most of which will be in basic and clinical research, integrating bioinformatics, computational biology and high throughput sequencing.
“I am extremely honored and excited to join the New York Genome Center at this key point in its development, and to have the opportunity to shape, inform and lead this institution to achieve the center’s ambitious plans,” Darnell says. “I look forward to launching a new multi-institutional scientific effort in New York to accelerate genomics-based fundamental research and to realize its potential to revolutionize clinical medicine.”
Darnell’s pioneering translational studies in paraneoplastic neurologic syndromes, which linked tumor immunity to autoimmune brain disease, have led to new antitumor strategies being tested in cancer patients. Studying these patients led his team to discover neuron-specific systems that regulate RNA expression, and to the invention of HITS-CLIP, now the gold standard with which to study RNA regulation in vivo. His innovative studies of mRNA splicing, translation, and miRNA regulation in clinical and experimental settings are offering new ways to explore the “dark matter” of the human genome, and to overlay genome-wide sequence information with human diseases, including brain disease and cancer.
“Leading the New York Genome Center is a position for which Bob is exceptionally well-suited, given his vast experience in the field of genomics and translational research,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Rockefeller’s president and a member of the NYGC’s Board. “Having worked closely with Bob since I came to Rockefeller, I can attest to his exceptional scientific integrity, outstanding leadership and passion for his work.”