North Texas Genome Center Seen as Boon for Health Care, DFW Economy

The new center, on the campus of UT Arlington, will be available to academic and corporate researchers. Officials said it could help elevate the region as a leader in precision medicine.

genome

North Texas health-care delivery and the region’s biotech sector have received a giant uplift with the announcement of the North Texas Genome Center, a partnership between the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.

The center — available to academic and corporate researchers — will open this month on the UT Arlington campus, and it will bring what UTA called “massive genome sequencing capabilities” to North Texas.

Dr. Hubert Zajicek, CEO and co-founder of the Dallas mentor-driven seed accelerator Health Wildcatters, said he expects the center will have a great impact on the region.

“Precision Medicine, based on a detailed understanding of the individuals’ genetic makeup is only in its infancy.”
Dr. Hubert Zajicek

“Precision medicine, based on a detailed understanding of the individuals’ genetic makeup is only in its infancy,” Zajicek told Dallas Innovates via email. “I expect lots of innovation in this space, so it is especially exciting to see a resource like that open up in our community.”

He said the ability to quickly and affordably perform whole genome sequencing is the basic building block of precision medicine.

“This effort [opening of the center] is a step in the right direction, combining academic interests with a desire to open the centers’ capabilities to local health entrepreneurs and innovators,” Zajicek said.

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said the new center is “wonderful news for Tarrant County” because it will enhance the North Texas economy.

“By bringing together the science, engineering, and nursing expertise of UTA with the biomedical research experience of UNTHSC, this new center will be able to produce innovative health-care solutions with a real positive impact on patients,” Williams said in a statement. 

UTA officials said they believe the center will bring more patented inventions, company startups, and job creation for the region. 

GENOME CENTER BOOSTS UTA AS ‘HUB FOR INNOVATION’

“UTA is becoming a hub for innovation in North Texas and the North Texas Genome Center will boost our capacities in this area,” UTA Vice President for Research Duane Dimos said.

The center will offer lower cost and faster service for human whole genome sequencing compared to other similar labs and will be vital in research in disease prevention, drug development, cancer treatments, and the fundamental aspects of genetics, according to UT Arlington.

Todd Castoe, UTA biology professor and associate director of the North Texas Genome Center and Jon Weidanz, UTA’s associate vice president for research and interim director of the new center, with a sequencing machine. [Photo courtesy of UT Arlington]

Whole genome sequencing is the process of determining the total DNA sequence of a particular organism at one time.

It provides physicians, scientists, and engineers with important tools to change the ways that doctors can treat their patients by making treatments more precise and patterned specifically to that patient’s individual genetic makeup.

The center will have five NovaSeq 6000 gene sequencing systems, which UTA and UNTHSC said is the most-powerful line from Illumina, a global leader in genome sequencing technology. 

BECOMING A LEADER IN PRECISION HEALTH 

The center will elevate the partner schools’ status in health care, officials said.

“The new North Texas Genome Center aligns with UTA’s strategic focus on both health and the human condition and data-driven discovery and will lead to future programs and partnerships in genomics, computational sciences, and genetic counseling,” UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said in the release. “The center will also catalyze the university’s emergence as a leader in precision health and the transformation of the region into a high-tech science hub.”

“The strength of this collaboration really is the the sharing of information, which we all feel is the primary building block of the medicine of the future.”

Anuja Ghorpade

Anuja Ghorpade, vice president for research at UNTHSC, said the sharing of information is the critical element to the partnership.

“The strength of this collaboration really is the the sharing of information, which we all feel is the primary building block of the medicine of the future,” she said.

The center will support and enhance UNTHSC’s research expertise in genetics, aging, and Alzheimer’s disease along with its clinical emphasis on primary care, geriatrics, and patient safety, according to the release.

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