The UFGI will be built on a foundation of outstanding genetics research programs already in existence across the UF campus in such diverse fields as medicine, agriculture, chemistry, and engineering. Necessary synergy among these programs will be achieved by enhanced communication, the development of shared instrumentation and computing resources, and a coordinated effort to build the scientific portfolio of the campus in areas that are complementary rather than redundant. Specifically, we aim to achieve the following: To develop platforms and techniques for functional genomics and proteomics research, i.e., research aimed at the discovery of the functions and interactions of genes in complex systems. The ability to test the functions of newly discovered genes in complex systems will be crucial to exploiting the information generated by the human genome project and the mapping of other genomes. Functional genomics research will require (1) specialized systems for the manipulation of genes in complex systems (such as intact animals, plants, or microorganisms); (2) novel methods to detect the results of such genetic alterations on the regulation of expression of many other genes; and (3) bioinformatics systems suitable for the rapid analysis of such data sets. Examples of these sorts of technology include the expansion of research using transgenic and knock-out animal models of human diseases, the development of DNA chip microarray technology for detection of changes in the expression levels of thousands of genes simultaneously, the development of parallel core equipment for mass spectroscopic analysis of multiple proteins simultaneously, and the creation of specialized databases and informatics tools to probe these databases.
Since functional genomics nearly always entails studies in complex systems, the output from such research generally consists of large sets of data. Whether these data sets are generated from DNA microarray detection of the expression of thousands of genes simultaneously or from rapid screening of thousands of individuals for disease susceptibility genes, the problem of analyzing the data efficiently remains. Furthermore, as the modes of data generation evolve, so too must the information technology be adapted to support the corresponding data analysis. In order to meet this need, the Institute will assist in the creation of a Bioinformatics Core facility in which computer scientists, statisticians, epidemiologists and genetics researchers will collaborate to solve these problems.
One of the central roles of the UFGI is to support research aimed at using genetic discoveries to solve specific practical problems in agriculture, medicine and environmental management. Specialized centers on campus that are focused on this task include the program in plant molecular and cellular biology (PMCB), the Powell gene therapy center (GTC), and the center for immunology and transplantation (CIT). The PMCB program is involved in research and education aimed at using genetic engineering of food crops in an attempt to promote resistance to infection and infestation and to enhance productivity. The GTC has worked to develop improved gene delivery systems for treating human diseases. The CIT utilizes basic cellular and genetic techniques to discover genes that cause autoimmune diseases like diabetes. Each of these programs is already funded by multimillion-dollar federal research grants. Currently, these centers are largely independent of one another. By housing members of the various centers together and providing key new shared technologies and facilities, the UFGI will create a truly interdisciplinary group for future progress in this area.