One of the university’s latest bragging rights is its new Genome Research Laboratory (GRL) on the Centennial Campus. The GRL is a $4-million laboratory/office suite outfitted with automated DNA sequencers, lab robotics, and a complete system for the preparation and analysis of microarrays (assays for large numbers of genes). Ask Dr. Charles Opperman, professor of plant pathology and GRL co-executive director, and he’ll modestly tell you that it’s one of the finest facilities of its kind in the country.

“The GRL is the only publicly funded, broad-spectrum genomics facility in the state and the only completely user-driven facility of its kind in the U.S.,” says Opperman. Used in more than 100 research programs at NC State, the lab has still not approached its 17,000-reaction-per-week capacity. But it has already justified its cost risk. After its first year, the facility has given researchers in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources the necessary competitive advantage to win $19 million worth of genomics research grants.

“It is highly unlikely that these grant applications would have been successful without access to the technology available in the GRL,” comments Dr. Bill Thompson, a professor of botany and the other half of the faculty executive director team. “This lab acts as a funding booster rocket.”

Dr. Bryon Sosinski, the GRL’s on-site director and a research assistant professor of horticulture, runs down the menu: “Our facility allows researchers to do high throughput sequencing, cloning, library construction, colony picking, filter spotting, microarraying, informatics and data mining for any research program at NC State that needs these very specialized and expensive tools. The user-based nature of the GRL saves everyone money and provides an important educational function for graduate students.”

The lab is continuously retooling to stay ahead of genomics faculty equipment needs and still has expansion space. Says Thompson, “The new biology requires a big investment in equipment. The GRL exemplifies the university’s commitment to excellence in the field of genomic science.”

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