Founded: 2004, building opened 2008
Location: Huntsville, AL
Mission: To translate the promise of genomics into all practical realms-medical, educational, agricultural and commercial-in order to improve our lives.
HudsonAlpha began with biotech entrepreneur Jim Hudson and the philanthropic Alpha Foundation, set up by Lonnie McMillian. With other leaders and more than $80 million in private donations, Hudson and McMillian built a nonprofit research organization that not only advances the life sciences but fosters the collaborations necessary to speed the movement of discoveries out of research labs into patient care. An additional $50 million came from then-Alabama Gov. Bob Riley in August 2005. Five months later, ground was broken for the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, located in Cummings Research Park, the U.S.'s second largest research park.
Recognizing the huge potential of genomics to revolutionize medical care, Hudson and McMillian invested in an impressive concentration of genomics research infrastructure and expertise, including Richard M. Myers, PhD, who became HudsonAlpha's president and science director.
Genomics - the study of a living being's entire set of DNA - helps us understand at the molecular level the basis for the development and progression of disease. The genomics field, born from the U.S. government's initial $3 billion public investment in the Human Genome Project between 1990-2003, has the potential to impact every person.
A unique aspect of HudsonAlpha's approach is its co-location of nonprofit scientists with entrepreneurs and corporate leaders who can incorporate innovations into products destined for the medical marketplace.
One success story originated during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. HudsonAlpha faculty investigator Jian Han, MD, PhD, studied the virus' genome, developed an assay and secured a sample of the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to validate that his test is indeed an excellent diagnostic tool.
"Dr. Han literally walked across the hall to a company that quickly incorporated the assay into its testing service and secured (Food and Drug Administration) emergency use approval," Elizabeth K. Newton, PhD, vice president for research affairs, said. "All told it took about 13 days to move from discovery into a company's offering."
There are 26 for-profit companies located in HudsonAlpha buildings on 153 acres. These companies' employees regularly cross paths with their nonprofit counterparts at HudsonAlpha.
"The idea is to put under one roof and on one campus both the nonprofit scientists and the for-profit entrepreneurs and companies," Newton said. "Our programs and the design of our physical spaces foster a collaborative atmosphere."
This fall, HudsonAlpha and Science will host a conference in Huntsville on immunogenomics, a field that involves the application of genomic technology to the study of the immune system. Multiple HudsonAlpha scientists contribute to the field, including Han, who developed many technologies for immune repertoire sequencing.
Advocacy for research-and the positive effect that research has on human health-is an important reason for HudsonAlpha's membership with Research!America.
"We're working toward the sameend," Newton said. "We want to have a significant impact on the future of society and on human health. We have to join our voices to accomplish that. And public funding of science is absolutely crucial."