After the recent establishment of a new Entomology building, avian research and care facility, and its high-profile partnership with GSK to create an innovative flu vaccine production facility, the Texas A&M University (TAMU) Systems Board of Regents recently approved a new Center for Bioinformatics and Genomics Systems Engineering. This new center will be a joint facilitation of Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). The creation of the center will offer benefits to future doctoral and post-doctoral students for their research, while also assisting in meeting the needs of the agricultural community in the state of Texas as well as the rest of the world.
The facility itself will occupy a 7,000 square-foot design, and will feature state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, a greenhouse, and offices for faculty and graduate students. The center, however, is more than just a new building: the entire effort seeks to leverage the strengths in contemporary engineering systems theory and life sciences that Texas A&M is famous for, to conduct impactful research human and animal health as well as agriculture and life sciences, and to train doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers, with a goal of enrolling between 25 and 30 doctoral students within the next two years.
Dr. Edward R. Dougherty, the current director of the Genomic Signal Processing Laboratory (GSP) and holder of the Robert M. Kennedy ‘26 Chair in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M, will serve as Director of the new center. He said in of the new joint facility in a TAMU press release that, “Our aim is to expand our existing strength in the mathematical formulation of molecular-level medicine and to translate that theoretical capability into diagnostic and therapeutic applications for human and animal health.”
Dr. Charlie Johnson, the current Director of Genomics and Bioinformatics at Texas A&M AgriLife Research, who will serve as Associate Director of the new Center for Bioinformatics and Genomics Systems Engineering, added to Dr. Dougherty’s comments by saying: “This center will play a critical role in developing the basic underpinnings and analytical tools to empower the development of improved food and fiber around the globe.”
Both professors plan to achieve these goals by training Ph.D. students to improve their understanding of biological systems, providing them with the ability to apply this knowledge to animal and plant sciences as well as patient diagnostics and treatment. Additionally, the new center will be able to secure funding for agricultural and life science research, which will assist in developing long-term relationships within the agricultural and animal science arena – this applies to those both in the TAMU System as well as those in the state of Texas.
Within the joint agreement, AgriLife will hire two professors that have research appointments within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Additionally, TEES will hire two research faculty trained in bioinformatics, computational biology, or systems biology. There will be four faculty members for the center who will teach the center’s first students. This effort will complement the center in achieving its overall mission of implementing critical research and engineering projects related to bioinformatics and genomics systems engineering.