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MIT Launches Interdisciplinary Cancer Center

By Allison Proffitt

March 6, 2008 | Although the official groundbreaking isn't until tomorrow, the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) opened today in Cambridge.

The Koch Institute will replace the previous MIT Center for Cancer Research, an NCI-designated basic research center since 1974. The institute brings together cancer scientists and cancer engineers, said Tyler Jacks, David H. Koch Professor of Biology, and founding director of the Koch Institute.

Jacks and colleagues met today at the Broad Institute, opposite the site of the future building, to discuss the future of cancer research at MIT and the goals for the Koch Institute.

The institute will be "explicitly interdisciplinary," said Jacks, listing researchers from the systems biology, nanotechnology, engineering, materials science, and biology fields that will be housed in or affiliated with the new facility. Jacks plans for the institute to combine science and engineering to offer "new innovative approaches at the interface of these disciplines."

Physically, the building has been designed to encourage interaction. With space to house 25 laboratories, each floor will include both biological and engineering lab space. In the center of the building, offices and common areas will be designed to bring scientists and engineers together. The core facilities will also be located in the center of the building. Jacks said that the institute plans to include a biotechnology center with high-throughput sequencing facilities.

"We've placed our chips with Solexa, which is now owned by Illumina," said Jacks of the institute's preferred sequencing platform. However, he acknowledged that with the rate the technology is advancing, that could change. "We'll be constantly evaluating [new] technologies, because they're critical," said David Houseman, the Ludwig Professor of Biology and a Koch Institute member.

Jacks hopes the building will be completed by December 2010, but emphasized that the Institute is already in existence. "The institute came into being today," he said. "We're not waiting for the building to open. We're a cohesive faculty."

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