The contract between the VA's Million Veteran Program and the BioProcessing Solutions Alliance provides $7.5 million for year one, with the balance to be determined. It calls for quality control and analysis of 100,000 DNA samples from U.S. military veterans, who have volunteered to participate, from around the country. The Million Veteran Program's purpose is "to better understand how genes affect health and illness in order to improve health care for Veterans," the VA says. The program will construct an extensive database of genetic, military exposure, lifestyle, and health information.
Dr. Andrew Brooks, RUCDR's chief operating officer and associate professor of genetics, will serve as principal investigator for the contract.
"We're honored to have been chosen by the Department of Veterans Affairs to perform this critical work on such a valuable research initiative focused on leveraging science to support the health and welfare of the brave men and women who defend our country," Brooks said. "This was the first government opportunity sought by our alliance, and the contract represents a real public-private partnership success."
The BioProcessing Strategic Alliance, launched 14 months ago, has numerous commercial clients, including major pharmaceutical companies.
Greg Swanberg, CEO of BioStorage Technologies, said, "The scientific and technical bioprocessing solutions expertise of RUCDR, combined with BioStorage Technologies leadership in sample management best practices, allow us to deliver a complete and integrated lifecycle solutions approach and enable us to support projects of any size or complexity anywhere in the world."
The BioProcessing Solutions Alliance will utilize Affymetrix' Axiom Genotyping Solution to build a custom microarray tailored to specific genetic and disease-related targets identified by VA scientists and physicians. The billions of high-quality genotypes generated will provide the Million Veteran Program with valuable understanding of how genetic factors affect human health.
"We feel privileged to partner with and serve the BioProcessing Solutions Alliance and Million Veteran Program on this landmark research initiative," said Dr. Frank Witney, president and CEO of Affymetrix. "This partnership reflects our efforts to strengthen our position in the growing translational medicine market and our commitment to work with forward-thinking organizations like the BioProcessing Solutions Alliance and Million Veteran Program team to produce the next generation of biological information that will be beneficial to our veterans' health care."
Formed in 1998, RUCDR Infinite Biologics offers a complete and integrated selection of biological sample processing, analysis, and storage services. The operation is located in four buildings on Rutgers' Busch Campus in Piscataway, N.J., and has more than 120 full-time employees.
The BioProcessing Solutions Alliance between RUCDR and BioStorage Technologies encompasses all biorepository functions, including sample management consulting, study logistics, collection-kit manufacturing, sample storage, tissue collection, and clinical sample bioprocessing, such as blood fractionation, nucleic acid extraction, and cell line establishment. The agreement also covers analytical services, including gene expression, sequencing, and genotyping. RUCDR Infinite Biologics currently stores more than eight million biosamples from researchers around the world, according to Brooks.
"RUCDR was created by scientists for scientists," Brooks said. "We understand the importance of standardization and quality control in a biorepository environment and are expert in marrying technology to specific scientific applications. This provides a real advantage for researchers that engage with us."