Guided by the profound vision of former President Dr. Yuan-Tseh Lee and the founding Director Dr. Chi-Huey Wong, the Genomics Research Center (GRC) was established in 2003. After Dr. Wong was elected the President of Academia Sinica, Dr. Chung-Hsuan Chen had assumed the directorship and continued to build a strong research team from 2007 till July, 2016. Currently, Dr. Shang-Cheng Hung is the director of GRC.
Composed of both senior scientists as well as energetic and talented junior researchers, GRC research team has expanded to around 40 full-time faculties. Their specialties cover a broad range of fields from physics, chemistry, engineering, computation, biology, to medicine. Among the faculties, we have also an excellent team of specialists to support technology development and to increase innovation capacity. These two unique features enable GRC to facilitate advanced interdisciplinary research. In addition to regular research staff, two other tremendous talent pools, Science Advisory Board (SAB) and Joint Research Fellows, complement our research projects or the Center as a whole. All members in SAB are renowned scientists in the world who advise GRC on both research and strategic planning on a regular basis. More than 40 joint research fellows from major research institutes in Taiwan are also a very valuable asset for projects involving interdisciplinary effort.
To foster young and promising students to join the field of advanced research, GRC currently has joint PhD programs with two top universities-National Defense Medical Center and National Yang-Ming University. GRC faculties also participate in the Taiwan International Graduate Program (TIGP) and other degree programs collaborated by Academia Sinica and local universities. The broad scope of research interests within GRC gives students, research assistants and postdoctors a great opportunity of training in the most cutting-edge fields. GRC will keep cultivating first-class talents to master in the modern disciplines and take the lead in their profession. Distribution of human resources during the past years is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Distribution of human resources of GRC.
In our effort to screen new drug leads for various diseases, GRC has set a chemical library of more than two-million compounds and the most efficient high throughput drug screening facility in Asia. GRC has also established critical facilities for cell biology and biomedical technology development, including mass spectrometer proteomic facility, NMR and X-ray facility for structure determination, microarray, peptide synthesis, high throughput genome sequencer and glycan analysis platforms for genomic research. The animal laboratory and Biosafety Level 3 Laboratory are also among the highlights. These facilities can significantly advance frontier biotechnology development and drug discovery.
The major focus of GRC’s research is on the understanding of genes associated with diseases and their functions. Through novel discoveries, powerful diagnosis tools and new therapeutic strategies are expected to be developed. Increased efforts will be placed on the pursuit of fundamental scientific advances through interdisciplinary programs, and the extension of basic discoveries to translational research. Therefore, we organize three research Divisions: Chemical Biology to develop new tools and molecules to target cancer and infectious diseases, Medical Biology to develop translational medicine for cancer biology, stem cell biology, immunobiology and epidemiology, and Physical and Computational Genomics to develop data analysis for drug prediction, and novel biomedical technology development. In addition to these Divisions, GRC has also established the Biotechnology Incubation Center (BIC) for pursuing technology transfer to convert important discoveries into commercial opportunities. To date, BIC has recruited thirteen highly respectable biotechnology companies that licensed technologies from Academia Sinica. Six of these thirteen companies have successfully commercialized proprietary products and hence become independent to build up their own manufacturing facilities. With rapid increase of inventions at Academia Sinica and the more favorable industrial environment for start-up biotech companies in Taiwan, we expect that the number of these successful start-up companies will grow abundantly in the foreseeable future.
Some of the scientific pursuits in GRC with great potential to be among the world leading research include new drug design based on structure study of membrane protein, carbohydrate chemistry and structure biology, the relationship of molecular biology modulation and disease, high throughput technology for drug discovery, infectious disease and vaccine development, immunotherapy, cancer stem cell, epidemiology, evolutionary bioinformatics, biological mass spectrometer development, and fast biomarker search. We continuously strive to make GRC a place that inspires as well as fulfills innovative ideas. Up to 2013, GRC members have published more than 1300 papers and have filed over 250 patent applications. GRC is very competitive compared to all peer institutes in Taiwan and Asia (Figure 2). Its research performance has already matched or been competitive to several international genome related research institutes with high reputation.
|Figure 2. Comparison of publications among relevant institutes
(source: Web of Science, ISI Web of Knowledge, 2014/6/3).
We will continue to pursue fundamental scientific research and translate the discoveries to disease therapeutics through interdisciplinary approaches. Our future perspective is to play a more crucial role in pharmaceutical and biomedical device industry in Taiwan.