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PacBio CSO Eric Schadt to Lead ‘Multiscale Institute’ at Mount Sinai

By Kevin Davies   

May 16, 2011 Pacific Biosciences, a third-generation DNA sequencing company that just started commercial shipment of its RS single-molecule sequencer, has announced a bi-coastal partnership with Mt Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) in New York City to create the Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology.     

The director of the new institute will be PacBio’s chief science officer Eric Schadt, who is retaining his non-operational position at PacBio while moving to New York this summer to run the center. The institute will be the hub of genomics research at MSSM, collaborating with 13 other translational and core facilities at Mount Sinai.  A Single Molecule Real Time (SMRT) Biology featuring PacBio’s technology user facility will be created within the Institute.   

“The large-scale generation and integration of multiple sources of biological data combined with clinical information will expand our ability to characterize disease, and ultimately help develop and improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients,” said Dennis Charney, Dean of MSSM, in a statement. “With unprecedented access to Pacific Biosciences’ revolutionary technology and under the direction of Dr. Schadt, the Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology will be at the forefront of the revolution in genetics and genomic sciences, which will fundamentally change the practice of medicine.”  

The MSSM SMRT Biology facility will be equipped with R&D versions or “Astros” of the PacBio instruments, which are being used to study DNA and RNA sequencing, protein translation and ligand binding. The SMRT systems will be available for use by institute researchers as well as other collaborators in the eastern half of the country.   

“The alliance between PacBio and Mount Sinai, and my dual role working with both organizations, will allow us to bring together the components required to catapult a new paradigm for clinical research and translational medicine,” said Schadt.   

Schadt’s new appointment raises the question whether other next-generation sequencing and technology vendors will be inclined to collaborate with the new MSSM multiscale institute. “I would say that other companies will be very hungry to work with the institute at MSSM,” Schadt told Bio-IT World, “because our vision is to become a dominant force in integrating data from many technologies and developing predictive models that impact physician and patient decision making. This will help grow the market and all will benefit, so there will be strong incentive for many companies to be part of that -- or watch it from the outside!”  

According to a PacBio spokesperson, the company had been seeking a potential academic partner for more than a year to help develop new applications for its technology and gain access to patients to move the technology into the clinic. MSSM stepped into the picture after talks with a West Coast institution stalled.  

Schadt is permitted to spend 75% of his time on external research in an academic setting. He is a founding member of Sage Bionetworks, an open access genomics initiative he co-founded with former Merck vice president Stephen Friend, designed to create databases and an accessible platform to foster innovative dynamic disease models. He is a former keynote speaker at the Bio-IT World Conference and was profiled in the magazine in 2009.   

Sounding themes around the integration of genomic, expression and clinical data that have typified his earlier career at Rosetta Inpharmatics and Merck, Schadt said: “Multiscale data integration, including genomic, expression, metabolite, protein, and clinical information, will ultimately define the future of patient care. With our intent to collaborate in areas such as newborn screening for rare genetic disorders, infectious diseases and cancer, we hope to accelerate this revolution, starting by integrating clinical data with previously untapped biological information to build new computational models for predicting human disease.”   

“With a strong commitment, shared vision, and extensive access to patient samples, we believe Mount Sinai is a perfect partner to help realize the promise of SMRT technology in clinical applications,” said Hugh Martin, chairman and CEO of Pacific Biosciences.  

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