From its conception in 1995, the Columbia Genome Center (CGC) was envisioned as a bridge between the biomedical and science/engineering communities of the two main Columbia University campuses. Mindful of the challenges ahead to harness the vast potential of the genome, the CGC was born as an interdisciplinary consortium of scientists and engineers dedicated to the generation of technology, information science, systems biology, and population genetic theory required to transform information from the genome to the study of biology and the practice of medicine.
Located in the heart of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, it is befitting that the intellectual focus of the Center is the study of heritable human disease. At the CGC, statistical, molecular, and population geneticists are working with Columbia researchers to study the genetic basis of such complex genetic disorders as diabetes, psychiatric illness, and cardiovascular disease.
As we begin the 21st Century, we have access to the complete genome sequences of over 30 diverse organisms including human. To cope with the unprecedented amount of information encoded in these sequence databases the CGC has joined with the Department of Medical Informatics to create common research and educational programs.
With the complete sequence of the human genome now available, it becomes formally possible to identify “genetic profiles” to predict disease susceptibilities and to guide an individual’s medical treatment. Scientists and engineers at the CGC and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry are developing the next generation of technologies that, ultimately, will provide whole genome individual genetic profiles.
The vast genome databases contain DNA or protein sequence, as opposed to more biologically relevant information such as protein structure, function, time and pattern of expression, or cell location. Computational scientists at the CGC are working with colleagues from the Departments of Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Biochemistry, Biology, and Pharmacology to develop algorithms, software, and databases to process and interpret sequence data, gene expression data, phylogenetic relationships, and protein charge distribution data, in order to predict protein structure, function, and complex biomolecular relationships.
Currently, the CGC consists of about 70 scientists and administrators housed in the new Berrie Medical Science Pavilion. Principal investigators and graduate students represent diverse departments and disciplines from both the Health Sciences and Main Columbia University campuses. The Center is organized as five interacting research divisions, a systems management team, and an administrative unit. In early 2002, we expect to introduce several “service facilities” designed to provide Columbia University researchers education, access, and flexibility in the use of emerging genomic technologies.
The Columbia Genome Center (CGC) is an outgrowth of the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Human Genome Initiative. In 1990, as part of this project, researchers at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons began work on chromosome 13 and completed a state-of-the-art high-resolution physical map in 1994. On July 1, 1995, the Columbia Genome Center (CGC) was established officially as a University-wide enterprise, broadening its goals under the Direction of Dr. Isidore Edelman, to include sequencing, gene discovery, and technology development. In late 1997, Dr. T. Conrad Gilliam was appointed co-Director, and then in July of 2000, Dr. Gilliam assumed the role of Director. In March, 2000 the CGC was officially renamed, the Judith P. Sulzberger, MD Columbia Genome Center to honor Dr. Sulzberger’s generous support and vision for the Center since 1988.
September 28, 2001
T. Conrad Gilliam, Ph.D.
Director, Judith P. Sulzberger MD, Columbia Genome Center