CSI President William J. Fritz discusses the College’s new Genomic Research Facility.

Representatives from the Staten Island community including elected representatives, members of the scientific community, local high school administrators, and students, faculty, and administrators from the College of Staten Island gathered at the College on September 16 for an event that formally launched the plan to develop the CSI Genomic Research Facility. The facility, the first of its kind in the Borough, will allow faculty and students to conduct genome sequencing and analysis to search for genetic variations in DNA that may cause the development or progression of diseases or conditions such as cancer and autism, which are taking an enormous toll on the Borough.

The CSI Genomics Research Facility is made possible through the generous allocation of $1.25 million in funding by Borough President James Oddo, Council Member and Minority Leader Steven Matteo, and Council Member Joseph Borelli.

After greetings and an introduction by Vice President of Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations Ken Iwama, CSI President William J. Fritz underscored the significance of this new facility in terms of the College’s Strategic Plan, Opportunity to Ascend, and the Strategic Priority of Borough Stewardship, stating that “CSI is increasingly viewed as Staten Island’s anchor institution, meaning that we are a central entity the integrates economic, human, intellectual, and institutional resources with the community.” He also explained that the facility addressed another Strategic Priority, Destination Campus, making CSI an institution that will be attractive to high-caliber faculty and students.

Chang-Hui Shen, Professor and Chair of the CSI Biology Department, followed Dr. Fritz with a comprehensive overview of the genomic research process and the state-of-the-art equipment that will be utilized in the facility. During the presentation, Dr. Shen noted that the genomic research facility will “transform research and medicine on Staten Island where cancer and intellectual disabilities are significant issues.” He added that the facility will leverage its community-based partnerships through collaboration with local hospitals, the CUNY High-Performance Computing Center, and the Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities.

Councilmembers Borelli and Matteo, as well as Deputy Borough President Ed Burke, also made brief remarks at the event highlighting the critical role of the College of Staten Island in advancing community based research to address some of the most pressing issues within the borough.

Besides generating critical research, the facility will also serve as a center for genomic education, providing an academic foundation for high school and college students interested in pursuing careers in research or other professional opportunities in this burgeoning field, which is predicted to have an economic impact of $41.2 billion by 2025.   

The CSI Genomic Research Facility, which will be housed in the Biology Department, with an anticipated opening in 2021, is the latest center for technological and scientific innovation at CSI. This facility will join the College’s highly successful CSI Tech Incubator, the CUNY High-Performance Computing Center, and the new CSI Makerspace in the Department of Engineering and Environmental Science, which is currently under construction.  

By Terry Mares and Ken Iwama