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The New York Genome Center Launches the MacMillan Center for the Study of the Non-Coding Cancer Genome

New York, NY  ·  January 18, 2023

New Center to Shine Light on the Dark Genome

The New York Genome Center (NYGC) announced the launch of the MacMillan Center for the Study of the Non-Coding Cancer Genome (MCSNCG) today, a major new initiative in cancer research to study the role and function of the non-coding genome and epigenome in the evolution, progression, and treatment of multiple cancer types, including breast, ovary, pancreas, gastrointestinal, lung, and hematologic cancers.

Tom Maniatis, PhD, NYGC’s Evnin Family Scientific Director and CEO, commented: “This Center, with its leading-edge multidisciplinary approach –– bringing together experts in genomics, engineering, mathematics, computational biology, and cancer biology –– will dramatically advance the understanding of the role of the non-coding genome in cancer.”

The non-coding “dark” genome constitutes 98% of the human genome and it plays an essential regulatory role across all molecular layers of biological complexity (i.e. genome, epigenome, transcriptome, proteome), influencing DNA organization and structure, genome accessibility to regulatory proteins and RNA, and intracellular organelle organization. The molecular mechanisms by which cell functions are carried out hold extraordinary promise for understanding how cellular identity is encoded in individual cell types and cell states; how cells are altered by intercellular interactions within the microenvironment, including immune cells; and how they are disrupted in various disease states, most specifically in cancer.

While extraordinary progress has been made through individual, gene-focused research projects, the biomedical research community has historically lacked the technology and collaborative framework to systematically study the causality of the non-coding genome in cancer. Therefore, foundational questions regarding the role of the non-coding genome in the development and progression of many cancer types remain unanswered.

Established by a generous gift from the MacMillan Family Foundation, the MCSNCG will seek to answer these questions through an inter-institutional, multi-disciplinary research program that brings together engineers, data scientists, mathematicians, technologists and biological experts. This range of expertise from the NYGC’s collaborative network will allow the MCSNCG to engage in coordinated efforts to understand how behavior is encoded in cells and unravel the intricacy of intercellular interactions involved in the development of cancerous cells, metastasis, and drug resistance.

Education and Outreach to promote diversity and representation in genomics and cancer research, engage the broader scientific community, and educate the public on the value and benefit of this important work is another critical component of the Center. To that end, the MCSNCG will offer internship and post-baccalaureate training opportunities, workshops and seminars for both scientific and public audiences, and will broadly disseminate the Center’s scientific findings through the publication of protocols, analytic methods, genomic data, and discoveries.

To maximize the impact of this research, the MCSNCG will also leverage existing regional cancer and genomic technology research initiatives anchored by the NYGC collaborative network such as the Polyethnic-1000 (P-1000) initiative. The researchers of the P-1000 initiative study cancer genomes of under-represented minority populations with the goal of understanding the role of genetic diversity in cancer, improving the application and outcome of precision medicine for these populations, and addressing the stark ethnic disparities in cancer research and diagnosis.

Samuel Aparicio, FRCPath PhD, FRSC, NYGC’s Senior Scientific Director of Cancer Genomics, says, “Decoding causality is fundamental to providing interpretable quantitative explanations of elements of the non-coding genome in cancer. Biological problems of this nature require cross-cutting programs where investigators with a broad range of expertise are supported to collaborate and focus on building new measurement methods and computational frameworks to understand the complex dynamics of cancer biology.”

The NYGC and the MacMillan Family Foundation share a mutual commitment to meaningfully and measurably advancing our understanding of cancer biology by innovating and applying new technologies, methodologies, and analytics. This new collaborative initiative brings together leading researchers from eight institutions including the BC Cancer Research Institute, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Columbia University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Northwell Health, New York University, and Weill Cornell Medicine.

About the New York Genome Center
The New York Genome Center (NYGC) is an independent, nonprofit academic research institution that serves as a multi-institutional hub for collaborative genomic research. Leveraging our strengths in technology development, computational biology, and whole-genome sequencing, our mission is to advance genomic science and its application to novel biomedical discoveries. NYGC’s areas of focus include the development of computational and experimental genomic methods and disease-focused research to advance the understanding of the genetic basis of cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and neuropsychiatric disease. During the pandemic, the NYGC worked with its hospital and academic partners to advance COVID-19 research, monitoring viral variants and exploring the genetic basis of severe disease. We are committed to prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is fundamental to promoting greater collaboration, innovation, and discovery.

About the MacMillan Family Foundation
The mission of the MacMillan Family Foundation is to support organizations that help strengthen and enrich our society in three major areas: cancer and medical research, education, and the arts. In addition, through its community grants program, the Foundation supports local, grass-roots organizations and services that seek to maintain and enhance the health, education, and well-being of the communities where it operates.

The MacMillan Family Foundation was founded in January 2003 by Duncan and Nancy MacMillan. The MacMillans were early signers of the Giving Pledge. Duncan serves as Chairman of the Foundation, and Nancy serves as its President.

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