Stanford to rival Broad Institute with Big Data-focused genomics center

Stanford University has won approval for a genomics center that will compete with MIT and Harvard's Broad Institute for funding and talent, The Stanford Daily reported. The West Coast rival will be explicitly focused on analyzing Big Data, those incredibly large and fast-growing data sets that scientists are investigating to solve mysteries about human biology and other complex fields.

Stanford genetics professor Carlos Bustamante and biology professor Mark Feldman will lead the new operation--dubbed the Stanford Center for Computational, Evolutionary and Human Genomics, according to the newspaper report. The university has been home to top genomics and computational experts for years, but the new center establishes a hub to foster more interdisciplinary collaboration and research.

While the center doesn't yet have a physical home, plans call for the operation to include academics from Stanford's schools of humanities and sciences, engineering, medicine and law, The Stanford Daily reported. Stanford has taken a similar approach in the past with Bio-X, which unites researchers from medicine and biology, but the new center is expected to study genomics not just for human health but also to explore the DNA code of other organisms and for fields such as ecology and agriculture.

"There was a recognition among the administration of how significant and vital it was to support this project and take a risk," said Richard Saller, dean of Stanford's School of Humanities & Sciences.

Saller's school and the provost office at Stanford are expected to fund the genomics center for the first 5 years, with plans for the center to eventually become self-sufficient with funding from grants and philanthropic donations. Even with the cost of DNA sequencing plummeting, it costs big bucks to be a leader in genomics--especially if you're competing with the well-funded Broad Institute.

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