Genome Inst. at Washington U. axes 54 jobs

One of the key genomic research centers in the country is downsizing because of a reduction in federal funding. The Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis has pink slipped 54 employees or roughly 20% of its workforce. While all faculty spots are safe, the layoff axe has hit people working in informatics, analysis, assembly and other areas of the operation, STLtoday.com reported.

The genome institute's job cuts come ahead of the National Human Genome Research Institute's 23% reduction in support to the group for the next annual funding cycle. Its $37.6 million in annual funds from NHGRI, whose funding provides about 60% of its budget, runs dry on Oct. 31, and the grant for the next year will be about $28 million, the website reports. The genome institute has made it into the history books in the genetics field for its part in sequencing the first human genome, but now the NHGRI wants to spread its bets across a larger number of genomic research groups and ones that are homing in on the underpinnings of specific diseases.

With some of the institute's informatics and analysis workers getting the axe, the group is losing some of the people who provide the expertise and IT tools that scientists use to interpret the massive amounts of data from gene studies. A major criticism of the genomics field is that it hasn't yet fully delivered on the promise of personalized medicine, in which patients are treated based on their genes and other biological traits. Clearly, the NHGRI, which is expected to reduce the funding of other major genomics centers such as the Broad Institute, is looking to bet more broadly on research groups that are seeking potential breakthroughs for improving human health.

"We believe these projects will continue," Joni Westerhouse, of Washington University's medical school, said, as quoted by the news website. "However, we expect all projects will be affected to some extent."

- see the SLTtoday.com piece
- and the article from the St. Louis Business Journal

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